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Ex-Spouse Property Transfers Incident to Divorce | Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article introduces a series of articles on 26 U.S.C. §1041 and specifically the issue of tax treatment of ex-spouse property transfers incident to divorce. As a result of a divorce, it is very common for ex-spouses to transfer properties to each other as part of their settlement agreement. A question arises: are these ex-spouse property transfers taxable?

Note that this article covers a situation only when both spouses are US citizens and only direct transfers between ex-spouses (i.e. the transfers on behalf of an ex-spouse are not covered here).

General Rule for Ex-Spouse Property Transfers under 26 U.S.C. §1041

A property transfer between spouses is generally not subject to federal income tax. 26 U.S.C. §1041(a)(1). Transfers of property between former spouses are also not taxable as long as they are “incident to divorce”. 26 U.S.C. §1041(a)(2). For income tax purposes, the law treats the transferee spouse as having acquired the transferred property by gift. 26 U.S.C. §1041(b)(1). This means that “the basis of the transferee in the property shall be the adjusted basis of the transferor”. 26 U.S.C. §1041(b)(2).

It is important to emphasize that only transfers of property (real, personal, tangible and/or intangible) are governed by 26 U.S.C. §1041; transfers of services are not subject to the rules of this section. Treas Reg §1.1041-1T(a), Q&A-4.

Ex-Spouse Property Transfers Incident to Divorce

The key issue for the ex-spouse property transfers is whether they are “incident to divorce”. The statute and the temporary Treasury regulations describe two situations when a transfer between ex-spouses will be considered “incident to divorce”: “(1) The transfer occurs not more than one year after the date on which the marriage ceases, or (2) the transfer is related to the cessation of the marriage.” Treas Reg §1.1041-1T(b), Q&A-6; 26 U.S.C. §1041(c).

Ex-Spouse Property Transfers Not More Than One Year After the Cessation of a Marriage

Any transfers of property between former spouses that occur not more than one year after the date on which the marriage ceases are subject to the nonrecognition rules of 26 U.S.C. §1041(a). This is case even if a transfer of property is not really related to the cessation of the marriage. Treas Reg § 1.1041-1T(b), Q&A-6.

Ex-Spouse Property Transfers Related to the Cessation of the Marriage

26 U.S.C. §1041 does not actually define the meaning of “transfers related to the cessation of the marriage”. Rather, the temporary Treasury regulations explain this term.

The temporary regulations establish a two-prong test that states that a transfer of property is treated as related to the cessation of the marriage if: (1) “the transfer is pursuant to a divorce or separation instrument, as defined in section 71(b)(2)”, and (2) “the transfer occurs not more than 6 years after the date on which the marriage ceases”. Treas Reg §1.1041-1T(b), Q&A-7. The definition of divorce or separation instrument in the first prong also includes a modification or amendment to such decree or instrument.

If either or both of the prongs of this test are not satisfied (for example, the transfer occurred more than six years after the cessation of the marriage), then a transfer “is presumed to be not related to the cessation of the marriage.” Id. This is a rebuttable presumption and, in a future article, I will discuss how a taxpayer may rebut this presumption.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help Concerning Tax Consequences of a Property Transfer to an Ex-Spouse

If you are engaged in a divorce or you are an attorney representing a person who is engaged in a divorce, contact Sherayzen Law Office for experienced help with respect to taxation of transfers of property to an ex-spouse as well as other tax consequences of a divorce proceeding.

IRS Plans January 30, 2013 as Tax Season Opening Date For 1040 Filers

Following the January tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), the IRS announced on January 9, 2013, that it plans to open the 2013 filing season and begin processing individual income tax returns on January 30, 2013.

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on that date after updating forms and completing programming and testing of its processing systems. This will reflect the bulk of the late tax law changes enacted on January 2, 2013. This should cover the great majority of the filers.

The IRS estimates that remaining households will be able to start filing in late February or into March because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes. This group includes people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits. Most of those in this group file more complex tax returns and typically file closer to the April 15 deadline or obtain an extension.

“We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible,” IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said. “This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems.”

The IRS will not process paper tax returns before the anticipated Jan. 30 opening date. There is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date, and taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file with direct deposit.

Estimated Tax Payments are due on June 15, 2011

Estimated tax payments for the second quarter (April 1 –  May 31) of 2011 are due on June 15, 2011. The estimated tax payments should be made using Form 1040-ES. Note, if the due date for an estimated tax payment falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the payment will be considered on time if it is made on the next business day.

Non-Resident Alien Spouse and Joint U.S. Tax Return

This article will cover the options that are available for married couples where one spouse is a non-resident alien and the other is a U.S. citizen. A nonresident alien is an alien who has not passed the green card test or the “substantial presence test” under IRS rules. For the purposes of this article, a “married couple” will refer solely to this specific situation.

Election to File Joint Return

Although a non-resident alien who does not have U.S. source income is generally not required to file a U.S. tax return, in some instances it may be beneficial for a non-resident alien married to a U.S. citizen to do so. If the married couple meets certain criteria, they may elect to file a joint return.

The criteria is as follows: A married couple may elect to treat the non-resident alien as a U.S. resident, if the couple is married at the end of the taxable year. This also includes instances in which one of the spouses is a non-resident alien at the beginning of the year, but becomes a resident alien at the end of the year, and the other spouse is a non-resident alien at the end of the year.

Reason for Electing to File a Joint Return

There are numerous reasons why a non-resident alien in a married couple may elect to file a joint return. For instance, the non-resident alien may have U.S. source income, in which case U.S. taxes will likely be owed in any event. Thus, filing a joint return may result in less taxes paid, depending on tax brackets, type of income and applicable deductions.

It may also make sense in certain circumstances for a non-resident alien who does not have U.S. source income to file a joint return. Additionally, a non-resident alien filing a joint return may be allowed to claim possible credits on foreign income taxes paid, such as the Foreign Tax Credit.

Note however, in certain circumstances, the non-resident alien spouse of the married couple filing the joint return may still be treated as a non-resident alien (such as for the tax purposes of IRC Chapter 3 Withholding, Social Security, or Medicare).

Applicable Rules

Married couples must file a joint return in the year they first elect to treat the non-resident alien as a resident alien for tax purposes. Both spouses will be considered to be residents for tax purposes for all years that the election is in effect. While a joint income return must be filed for the year the election is made, a joint or separate return may be filed in later years.

By electing to file the joint return, both spouses must report all worldwide income on the return. In general, neither spouse will be able to claim tax treaty benefits as a resident of a foreign country in the years in which the election is made, although this will depend upon the specifics of each treaty.

Making The Election

Married couples may make the election by attaching a statement, signed by both spouses, to the joint return for the first tax year that the election is made. (See specific IRS requirements for more details). Married couples may also make the election by filing a amended Form 1040X joint tax return (however, any tax returns filed after the tax year of the amended return must also be amended).

Ending or Suspending the Election

Once the election is made, it will apply to all subsequent tax years, unless it is ended or suspended. An election may be ended by various means, such as the death of either spouse, legal separation, revocation by either spouse, or inadequate records (See Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more details). Once the election is ended, neither spouse may make the election in subsequent tax years.

An election is suspended if neither spouse is a US citizen or resident alien at any time during a later tax year. Married couples may resume the election however if the required criteria are eventually met again in subsequent tax years.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office

This article is intended to give you a brief summary of these issues. If you have further questions regarding these matters as it pertains to your own tax circumstances, Sherayzen Law Office offers professional advice in all of your tax and international tax needs. Call now at (612) 790-7024 to discuss your tax situation with an experienced international tax attorney.

Extension of Time to File Federal Tax Return for Individuals: Form 4868

If an individual taxpayer cannot file his tax return by the due date of the return, the IRS allows most of such taxpayers to request an automatic six-month extension of time to file the return.

In order to do so, the taxpayer should file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the return due date. Generally, for the 2010 tax return, taxpayers who wish to take advantage of the extension will need to file Form 4868 on or before April 18, 2011 (the main exception is where a taxpayer operates based on fiscal year).

The most difficult part of filing-out Form 4868 is the requirement to show the “full amount properly estimated as tax” for such taxpayer for the relevant tax year. A taxpayer is deemed to have complied with the requirement when he makes a bona fide and reasonable estimate of his tax liability based on the information available to him at the time he makes his request for an extension.

Failure to properly estimate one’s tax liability may lead to the invalidation of the extension. This means that the return will be considered a regular delinquent return. Such determination, in turn, is likely to result in the imposition of failure to file and failure to pay penalties from the statutory due date. I emphasize that the penalties may be imposed from the original statutory due date where Form 4868 is invalidated.

It is important to emphasize that an extension of time to file is not equivalent to an extension of time to pay. It is generally true that, under the relevant Treasury regulations and IRS Notice 93-22, individual taxpayers still can file a valid Form 4868 and obtain an automatic extension without paying the properly estimated tax in full – this means, of course, that no late filing penalty is likely to be assessed. However, the taxpayers will still owe interest on any past due tax amount and may be subject to a late payment penalty if payment is not made by the regular due date of the return.

It is also important to note that other extension provisions, in addition to the regular Form 4868 automatic six-month extension, may apply, especially for taxpayers who live outside of the United States or who are part of the U.S. military, either on duty outside the United States or hospitalized as a result of injury. More exceptions are made for taxpayers who live in declared disaster areas.

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