December 2016 : Nontaxable/Nondeductible Designation of Payments

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA



A question put to me recently was, essentially – Can payments that may qualify as taxable/deductible be stipulated as nontaxable/nondeductible with assurance they will be so treated for tax purposes?

The answer is “yes”, pursuant to IRC 71(b)(1)(B). Just as it is important to include a “tax intent” provision when payments are intended to be taxable/deductible, the same is advisable when they are intended to be nontaxable/nondeductible. Tax intent provisions prevent misunderstandings down the road. Sometimes a tax preparer may suggest payments are deductible by the payer when such was not intended. A tax intent provision prevents this.

The following is sample generic language for a nontaxable/nondeductible tax intent provision:

“Defendant’s payments of [property/spousal support] to Plaintiff provided in paragraph [ ] are hereby designated by the parties, pursuant to IRC Section 71(b)(1)(B), as not includable in Plaintiff’s income under IRC Section 71 and, correspondingly, not deductible by Defendant under IRC Section 215. Plaintiff and Defendant agree that neither will file an income tax return on which subject payments are reported inconsistently with their expressly designated nontaxable/nondeductible status.”

Other Uses

Lump-Sum Payable on Death of Payer — The nontaxable/ nondeductible designation can be used to ensure that payments of life insurance proceeds or a lump-sum settlement from the estate of a deceased spousal support payer, which is not deductible as alimony on an estate’s income tax return, will not be taxable to the payee. This prevents the possibility of one party being taxed on a sizable payment for which there is no corresponding deduction by the other’s successor-in-interest.

It is common after the death of an alimony payer to con- vert the balance of the obligation to its lump-sum, present
value, after-tax equivalent (using the payee’s tax rate) and pay it in full with insurance proceeds. The nontaxable designation accommodates this practice.

Lump-Sum Payable for Other Reasons

Continued in PDF file below… “Nontaxable/Nondeductible Designation of Payments”
View / Download December 2016 Article – PDF File

Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section (subscription required)

November 2016 : Federal Income Tax Filing Tips and Related Info

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA


As the end of the year approaches, income tax ling questions frequently arise. The following are selected tax filing tips and related information.

Joint Income Tax Returns

It is widely known that if a couple is legally married as of December 31, they may file a joint tax return for the year. This is often beneficial if one spouse has substantially more income than the other – usually resulting in the higher level income taxable in a lower tax bracket. In such situations, it is not uncommon for divorces concluding late in a calendar to defer entry of a judgment into the succeeding year to take advantage of joint tax return filing one last time.

However, under current tax rules – including the pernicious alternative minimum tax – it is generally advisable to “run the numbers” assuming, alternatively, joint tax return filing and separate tax return filing, to determine which will result in the lower combined tax. If the latter would result in the lower tax, entering the judgment in the current year should be considered.

Whenever a joint return may be filed for a year and it is certain the parties will be divorced in the following year, the following matters may be also relevant considerations:

Joint and Several Liability

If a joint return is filed, the parties will be jointly and severally liable for unpaid taxes and/or deficiencies later arising from an IRS tax examination. So, if it is suspected that one spouse is underreporting income and/or claiming excessive deductions, it is generally advisable that the other spouse not agree to file a joint tax return.

While Innocent Spouse Relief protects some unwary joint filers from liability, such protection may not be available if a spouse had reason to believe that income is understated or deductions are padded.

Take Away – Consider potential liability before deciding to file jointly to achieve tax savings.

Joint Tax Refunds

Most divorce settlements provide for the division of a tax refund on the final joint return. The check will be sent to the address on the return and will be payable to both parties. Thus, delay in receipt of a refund may result if the principal residence is used on the return and the refund is sent after the house is sold and the effective “forwarding address” period has expired. If this is foreseeable, use another address on the return (e.g. in care of the CPA/tax preparer).

Take Away – Consider any potential logistical problems concerning receipt of a joint tax refund and make appropriate arrangements.

Joint Tax Overpayments Applied to Estimated Tax


Continued in PDF file below… “Federal Income Tax Filing Tips and Related Info”
View / Download November 2016 Article – PDF File

Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section (subscription required)