The U.S. Treasury Department recently released an audit report revealing a disturbing level of non-compliance in alimony reporting on tax returns. This non-compliance will result in a vast increase in tax return reviews now and in the years to come. Here is what you need to know.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently conducted an Audit of 2010 tax returns that claimed an alimony deduction. What they found:
- Over 560,000 taxpayers reduced their income for alimony paid in 2010.
- 47% of the claimed alimony deduction tax returns did not match required income reporting from those who received the alimony.
- The discrepancy was more than $2.3 billion in unreported 2010 income.
Please note: You may reduce your income for qualified alimony payments. Those that receive alimony must include the payments as income on their tax return. As a clarification, in most cases, spousal maintenance is considered alimony by the IRS while child support is not considered alimony.
Further, the audit determined that the IRS does not adequately track this non-compliance. Nor are proper penalties being assessed when the person paying alimony does not correctly report the Social Security Number (SSN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) of the person receiving the funds.
Things to consider
If you receive alimony. You must report this income on your tax return. If you are receiving income from an ex-spouse that you believe is child support, have documentation to support this claim.
Mis-match audits will rise. The IRS has corrected their audit filters to capture major alimony mis-matches. Given this, you should expect a notice or audit if there is a major alimony discrepancy.
Penalties are coming. If you do not correctly report the SSN or TIN of the person receiving alimony you will now start to see penalty notices. The programming error in the IRS system has been corrected. So get a correct identification number for the person who receives your alimony payments and report it on your tax return.
Keep documentation close. Since you know the risk of audit in this area is high, keep your documentation handy. If paying alimony, having it automatically deducted from your paycheck will help you accurately report your payment amounts.
File a tax return. In 2010, $937.2 million of the claimed alimony deductions had no corresponding income tax returns filed reporting the income. This non-reporting area is a highly recommended audit target for the IRS.
Talk to your ex. While possibly an unpleasant task, a quick discussion regarding claimed alimony can identify whether you have a reporting problem. Hopefully, this communication can solve any potential problems prior to the involvement of the IRS.
As a final note, alimony will no longer be a taxable event for divorce decrees after 2018. However, prior rules apply for divorces finalized prior to this date.