How the New Tax Law Could Cost Divorcing Couples in 2019

How the New Tax Law Could Cost Divorcing Couples in 2019

Divorce is hard enough as it is. The emotional toll on the family is intense, and that's before you get to the paperwork and the money. The new tax law which took effect January 2019 will significantly impact your finances after divorce. To avoid making your divorce that much harder, you'll want to be prepared to deal with these issues early on.

If you have questions about the effect of the new tax law on your divorce and you'd like to talk with an attorney, call us at 256-770-7232.

Here's an outline from Forbes of the four hard hitting changes you'll want to watch out for:

1. Alimony as a Tax Deduction: A U-Turn

Alimony paid will no longer be tax-deductible and alimony received will no longer be taxable income. For decades, alimony — typically paid by men — has been tax deductible for the person paying it and taxable income for the person receiving it (typically women). But that basic tenet of divorce will no longer apply next year and beyond, due to provisions in the big 2017 tax law.

This could make the process of divorcing extra sticky, overly emotional and significantly uglier. The law change stands to be the biggest dividing issue in divorces in 2019 and, by some estimates, will raise $6.9 billion for the government over next 10 years.

As a result of the new tax treatment, high-income divorcing spouses will aggressively fight to pay less in alimony, since the government will no longer subsidize these payments via the tax deduction. (This could hurt finances for some women, whose income typically falls sharply after a divorce.) Lower-income spouses will likely fight to get as much alimony as possible, since the tax burden will be removed and the payments will go further.

Calculations by Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff in the Analyze My Divorce Settlement estimator from his company, Economic Security Planning ($99 per year for individuals), have found that the new tax law will likely result in smaller alimony payments.

2. Future Modifications May Not Be Grandfathered In

People who are already divorced will be grandfathered in, but if their agreements are modified in 2019 or beyond, they could be subject to the new rules, too. If the modification states that it is to be governed by the new rules, then the new rules will apply. If the modification says nothing, however, the old rules will apply.

Consequently, people should be extremely cautious when modifying divorce agreements in 2019 and beyond.

3. Prenups May Be Affected

Pre- and post-nuptial agreements may be affected by the tax changes, too. The new rules may nullify many of the items in such agreements, so all pre- and post-nuptial agreements should be reviewed by a financial consultant, an attorney or both.

Don’t get caught flat-footed and re-negotiate terms if necessary.

4. Children As a Deduction

One more thing couples divorcing in 2019 or after should keep in mind: Children won’t be the tax deduction they used to be. The 2017 tax law eliminated the $4,050 exemption for each dependent, through 2025. The child tax credit (which offsets taxes owed, dollar for dollar), however, has doubled from $1,000 to $2,000.

Remember, too, that the standard deduction has almost doubled because of the 2017 tax law. Single taxpayers in 2019 will see a standard deduction of $12,000; it was $6,350 in 2017. See Forbes for full article

Financial and tax issues in divorce can be complex, and its best to have a team you can count on during the process. Find an attorney and an accountant you trust to advise you wisely, to avoid costly mistakes. If you have questions about how these issues may change the outcome of your divorce, call us at 256-770-7232, we're happy to help.

Have illegal immigrants made a billion dollars off Social Security!?! (Spoiler: No.)

Juan Q. Public?

Juan Q. Public?

You may have read or heard about this Fox News story, which has been making the rounds in the usual places. (Yes, it's Facebook. It's always Facebook.) According to the headline, the federal government "paid $1 billion in Social Security benefits to individuals without a SSN."

If you're like me, you're probably thinking, Wait, "individuals without a SSN" sounds like illegal immigrants. How could illegal immigrants be awarded Social Security benefits?

Well, they're not.

The story is based on on an audit conducted by the Social Security Administration's Inspector General, which revealed that the funds in question were paid to "representative payees" (people who receive and manage Social Security funds for the benefit of a person who is incapable of managing finances on their own). The Social Security Administration is supposed to keep either a representative payee's Social Security number or, if the person doesn't have an SSN, their application, on file, but the Inspector General found that the SSA was not doing an adequate job maintaining those records.

What's the difference?

A representative payee is legally required to use the funds for the sole benefit of the Social Security beneficiary. So economically, a representative payee receives no personal benefit at all.

The Fox News story somehow fails to mention this fact. It uses the term "representative payee" several times, but neglects to explain what it means. So to a casual reader (or anyone who isn't fascinated by the world of Social Security disbursement regulation), "Feds paid $1 billion in Social Security benefits to individuals without a SSN" sounds a heck of a lot scarier than it actually is.

The bottom line is that the article, while technically accurate, is worded in a way that ensures that most readers will get the wrong impression. As for why Fox News would do such a thing--well, to borrow a phrase: we report, you decide.

So how hard is it, really, to get disability benefits?

Social Security is there for Americans who have earned it and are either disabled or ready to retire. Many people seem to think that the hardest thing about getting disability is deciding which condition to fake and how to spend your time on easy street. In reality, there is an entire system in place to determine whether a person is truly disabled. You can learn more about the process here. If you think you may qualify, give us a call. We'd be glad to talk you through your options.