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.

New Deduction Phase-outs for 2013 Tax Returns

Upper-income US taxpayers should be aware that new deduction phase-out IRS rules in effect for 2013 tax returns to be filed in 2014 may increase their tax liabilities or reduce refunds. Two new important changes for high-earning individuals or couples are the new itemized deduction phase-outs and personal and dependent exemption deduction phase-outs. Because of these changes in the deduction phase-out rules, along with other new IRS rules that we have covered in previous articles, the necessity for proper tax planning will only increase in future years.

This article will briefly explain the changes in the deduction phase-out rules; it is not intended to convey tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax attorney if you have further questions. Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC can assist you in all of your tax and legal needs.

New Itemized Deduction Phase-Out Changes

Under the new US tax rules, the amount of itemized deductions that high-earning individuals or couples may take on Form 1040 is subject to a phase-out limitation. Specifically, allowable itemized deductions will be reduced by 3% of the amount of adjusted gross income (AGI) above the certain income thresholds (however, this reduction will not exceed 80% of the original total amount of a taxpayer’s itemized deductions).

The income thresholds are the following: $250,000 for single individuals, $300,000 for married filing jointly couples, $150,000 for married filing separately couples, and $275,000 for heads of households. As an example, consider a married couple filing jointly with AGI of $500,000, and $50,000 of original itemized deductions for Schedule A. Because their AGI is $200,000 over the income threshold, their allowable itemized deductions will be reduced by 3% of the excess ($200,000 multiplied by 3%, equaling $6,000). Thus, their allowable itemized deductions will be reduced to $44,000.

New Personal and Dependent Exemption Deduction Phase-Out Changes

While under the general IRS rule, the amount that taxpayers may deduct for each applicable exemption increased from 2012 (at $3,800) to 2013 (now $3,900), certain taxpayers may lose some or all of the benefit of their exemptions if their AGI exceeds certain thresholds under the new Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP). Under this rule, the dollar amount of each personal exemption must be reduced from its original value by 2 percent for each $2,500 or part of $2,500 ($1,250 for married filing separately) that AGI is above the above specified income thresholds.
For 2013 tax year returns, the phase-out starts at the following amounts: $250,000 for single individuals, $300,000 for married filing-jointly couples and qualifying widowers, $150,000 for married filing separately returns, and $275,000 for heads of households. If taxpayer’s AGI exceeds these applicable amounts by more than $122,500 ($61,250 for married filing separately returns), their deductions for exemptions amount will be reduced to zero.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Tax and Estate Planning

Combined with the new 3.8% Medicare surtax on investment income and the new 0.9% Medicare surtax on salaries and self-employment income earned by certain high-earning individuals, and the increased threshold amount for Schedule A itemized medical expense deductions, the new phase-out rules detailed in this article will dramatically impact many taxpayers. Professional tax planning may help lower your future tax liabilities.

This is why you need to contact the experienced tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office to help you create a thorough tax plan aimed at taking advantages of the various provisions of the U.S. tax code.

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.

Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Tax Relief: Basic Facts

Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence during tax years 2007 through 2012. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return. You may exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.

In order to qualify for the tax relief, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence. Refinanced debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion.

However, proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion. Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans also does not qualify for the tax relief provision.

If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed. You should examine the Form 1099-C carefully and notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.

If you qualify for tax relief, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was forgiven.

Note that other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable.

IRS to Start Processing Delayed Returns on February 14, 2011

On January 20, 2011, the IRS announced that it plans to start process tax returns, which were delayed as a result of the last month’s tax law changes, on February 14, 2011. It should be remembered that the taxpayers can begin preparing their tax returns immediately because many software providers are ready now to accept these returns.

Beginning February 14, 2011, the IRS will start processing both paper and e-filed returns claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on Form 8917 and the educator expenses deduction.

Taxpayers using commercial software can check with their providers for specific instructions. Those who use a paid tax preparer should check with their preparer, who also may be holding returns until the updates are complete.

Most other returns, including those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), education tax credits, child tax credit and other popular tax breaks, can be filed as normal, immediately.

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If you have any questions with respect to your 2010 tax return, call Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your tax case with an experienced Minneapolis tax lawyer.