Tax Issues for Divorcing Spouses to Look Into

Mandi Woodruff at the Business Insider provides the following tips for divorcing spouses:

Procrastinating. If you’re newly divorced and haven’t filed taxes as you read this article, you might want to get a move on it. First of all, there’s no telling how willing your ex will be to fork over his or her tax records, which could throw a major roadblock in your way. And if you’re relying on a CPA or tax preparer to play mediator, chances are high they’ll be too swamped this late in the season to field your last-minute questions.

Setting yourself up for liability by filing jointly. Every couple has to decide whether to file as married (joint) or married (filing separately) after a divorce. There’s a big difference here, which is that filing jointly means you’re on the hook if your ex winds up in tax trouble. “You’re liable for everything on the tax return even if it’s related to your spouse,” Mindel says.

Note: When it doubt, file separately. You can change your filing status to joint after the fact, but a joint return can never be amended once it’s filed.

Bring on the bills. Sometimes couples file jointly just because it’s far more expensive to prepare two separate returns–especially when CPAs and tax preparers come into play. Often, preparers will draw up a joint and separate return to compare the cost of each. “It’s not uncommon for two tax returns to cost a couple thousand dollars more,” Mindel says.

Claiming Head of household. When children are involved, deciding who’s able to claim Head of Household status in order to get the dependency deduction is a matter of simple math. By default, it goes to the parent who has custody more than 50 percent of the year. If both spouses try to file as HOH, that’s as good as rolling out the welcome mat to IRS auditors.

Tip: If there are multiple children, you can game the system a bit and agree to divvy up dependents on your returns (ex: if a couple has two children, they’d agree to claim one each).

Standard dependency. This is the other half of the child deduction and can be tricky because one spouse can agree to “give” the dependency standard deduction to the other. For that to work, he or she has to file an IRS form 83-82, sign it and give it to their ex every year.

Spousal support. Spousal support is most often tax deductible for the person paying and counts as added income for the benefactor. There’s a chance to negotiate nontaxable spousal support during the divorce proceedings.

Choosing where to file. In a perfect world, divorced couples would either sit down and bang out their taxes together or agree to use the same tax preparer. That way, the middleman would be familiar with both sides and they’d ensure your returns match up to pass muster with the IRS.

“The worst thing is to have the IRS come in and have both (parties) pointing the finger,” Mindel says. “In that scenario the only one making any money is the IRS.”

Please note that The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., practices family law and does not provide tax advice.   Nothing on this website or in the accounting practice of The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., should not be construed as tax advice.

However, if you are looking to retain a Florida Divorce Attorney and wish to schedule a consultation with a Tampa Bay Divorce Law Firm, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at 813-443-03615 or by filling out our online form.


About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
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