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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 Announces 2018 Pension Plan Limitations | Tax Lawyer Update

On October 27, 2017, the IRS announced the cost of living adjustments affecting 2018 Pension Plan limitations.

2018 Pension Plan Limitations: Summary of Main Changes

1. The first main change in 2018 Pension Plan Limitations affects all employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. In 2018, employees can contribute up to $18,500 into these plans. This amount represents a $500 increase from the 2017 contribution limitation of $18,000.

2. The second major change in 2018 Pension Plan Limitations is the modification of income ranges concerning eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional IRAs. Here are the new 2018 phase-out ranges:

Single Taxpayers (covered by a workplace retirement plan): $63,000 to $73,000 (up from the 2017 range of $62,000 to $72,000);
Married Filing Jointly (covered by a workplace retirement plan): $101,000 to $121,000 (up from the 2017 range of $99,000 to $119,000).
Taxpayer not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but who is married to someone who is covered: $189,000 and $199,000 (up from the 2017 range of $186,000 and $196,000).

No changes for a married individual filing a separate return, but who is covered by a workplace retirement plan. The phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

3. The third change in 2018 Pension Plan Limitations affects the modification of income ranges concerning eligibility to make contributions to Roth IRA. Here are the new 2018 phase-out ranges:

Single and Head of Household Taxpayers: $120,000 to $135,000 (up from the 2017 range of $118,000 to $133,000);
Married Couples Filing Jointly: $189,000 to $199,000 (up from the 2017 range of $186,000 to $196,000).

No change in the phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA. Such contributions are not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remain at the range of $0 to $10,000.

4. The fourth change in 2018 Pension Plan Limitations affects the modification of income range concerning eligibility for the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit. In 2018, the income limits will be:

Married Couple Filing Jointly: $63,000 (up from $62,000 in 2017);
Heads of Household: $47,250 (up from $46,500 in 2017);
Singles and Married Individuals Filing Separately: $31,500 (up from $31,000 in 2017).

2018 Pension Plan Limitations: Summary of Main Unchanged Limitations from 2017

1. IRA Annual Contribution Limit: remains unchanged at $5,500.

2. IRA additional catch-up contribution for individuals aged 50 and over: remains at $1,004.40 (not subject to annual cost-of-living adjustment).

3. 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan catch up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over: remains unchanged at $6,000.

Tax Attorney St Paul | Who Must Wait to File 2010 Tax Return

While for most taxpayers, the 2011 tax filing season starts on schedule. Due to tax law changes enacted by Congress in December, however, some taxpayers need to wait until mid – to late February of 2011 to file their 2010 tax returns in order to give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems. This is mostly due to the renewal of the three tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009 and were renewed by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act Of 2010 on December 17, 2010.

The IRS will announce a specific date in the near future when it can start processing tax returns impacted by the recent tax law changes. Meanwhile, the affected taxpayers should not submit their returns until IRS systems are ready to process the new tax law changes; however, the affected taxpayers can start working on their tax returns. For taxpayers who must wait before filing, the delay affects both paper filers and electronic filers.

The most common types of taxpayers who may need to wait to file their tax returns include:

1. Taxpayers Claiming Itemized Deductions on Schedule A

Due to the tax law changes, anyone who itemizes and files a Schedule A will need to wait to file until mid- to late February. Itemized deductions include mortgage interest, charitable deductions, medical and dental expenses as well as state and local taxes. In addition, itemized deductions include the state and local general sales tax deduction that was also extended and which primarily benefits people living in areas without state and local income taxes.

2. Taxpayers Claiming the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction

This is primarily concerns those taxpayers who claim their deduction on Form 8917. The deduction, which covers up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid to a post-secondary institution, can be claimed by parents and students.

Note, however, that this delay does not concern those taxpayers who claim other education credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit extended last month and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

3. Taxpayers Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction

This deduction is for kindergarten through grade 12 educators with out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250. The educator expense deduction is claimed on Form 1040, Line 23 and Form 1040A, Line 16.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you deal with and take advantage of the recent tax law changes. Call or e-mail Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your case with an experienced St Paul tax attorney!

October 15 Deadline for Extension Filers and Certain Non-Profit Organizations

If you filed Form 4868 to request a six-month extension to file your tax return, beware that October 15, 2010 is the fast-approaching deadline to file your tax returns. The IRS expects to receive as many as ten million tax returns from such extension filers.

The other important group of filers are small nonprofit organizations at risk of losing their tax-exempt status because they failed to file the required tax returns for the past three tax years (2007, 2008, and 2009). Their one-time chance to preserve their tax-exempt status is to file the appropriate variation of the Form 990 with the IRS.

The IRS has posted on a special page on its website listing the names and last-known addresses of these at-risk organizations, along with guidance about how to come back into compliance. The organizations on the list have return due dates between May 17, 2010 and October 15, 2010, but the IRS has no record that they filed the required returns for any of the past three years.

Click here for more information about this unique one-time relief program.

This essay is provided as a courtesy notice by Sherayzen Law Office, Minnesota tax law firm for businesses and individuals.

Extension of the Homebuyer Tax Credit under the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009

New Deadlines

While the maximum tax credit amount remains at $8,000 for a first-time homebuyer, the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (“WHBAA”)extends the deadline for qualifying home purchases from November 30, 2009, to April 30, 2010. Additionally, if a buyer enters into a binding contract by April 30, 2010, the buyer has until June 30, 2010, to settle on the purchase. The first-time homebuyer is defined as a taxpayer who has not owned a primary residence during the three years up to the date of purchase.

WHBAA also provides a “long-time resident” credit of up to $6,500 to others who do not qualify as “first-time homebuyers.” In order to qualify, a buyer must have owned and used the same home as a principal or primary residence for at least five consecutive years of the eight-year period ending on the date of purchase of a new home as a primary residence.

Members of the Armed Forces and certain federal employees serving outside the U.S. have an extra year to buy a principal residence in the U.S. and still qualify for the credit. An eligible taxpayer must buy or enter into a binding contract to buy a home by April 30, 2011, and settle on the purchase by June 30, 2011.

New Income Limits

WHBAA further raises the income limits for buyers who purchase homes after November 6. The full credit will be available to taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) up to $125,000, or $225,000 for joint filers. Those with MAGI between $125,000 and $145,000, or $225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers, are eligible for a reduced credit. Those with higher incomes do not qualify.

Remember, for homes purchased prior to Nov. 7, 2009, existing MAGI limits remain in place. The full credit is available to taxpayers with MAGI up to $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers. Those with MAGI between $75,000 and $95,000, or $150,000 and $170,000 for joint filers, are eligible for a reduced credit. Taxpayers who enjoy higher incomes do not qualify for this tax credit.

Top New Restrictions

WHBAA imposes several new restrictions for homes purchased after November 6, 2009. Among the most important restrictions are inability by the dependants and minors (less than 18 years of age on the date of purchase) to claims the tax credit. Also, home purchased for the price exceeding $800,000 do not qualify for the tax credit.

How to Claim this Tax Credit

The qualifying homebuyers have the option of claiming the tax credit on either their 2009 or 2010 tax returns. In order to claim the tax credit, the eligible taxpayers must fill-out the new Form 5405 together with the following additional documentation:

a). Generally: a copy of the settlement statement showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, sales price, and date of purchase. Normally, this is the properly executed Form HUD-1, Settlement Statement;

b). If the taxpayer purchased a mobile home and unable to get a settlement statement, then he should include a copy of the executed retail sales contract, showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, purchase price and date of purchase;

c). If the taxpayer purchased a newly constructed home and a settlement statement is not available, then he should include a copy of the certificate of occupancy, showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.

If the taxpayer is claiming a “long-time resident” tax credit, it is advisable (to avoid refund delays) to attach the following documents covering the five-consecutive-year period:

I) Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, or substitute mortgage interest statements, or
ii) Property tax records, or
iii) Homeowner’s insurance records.

Notice the word “or” – this means that either of the aforementioned three categories of records may suffice.

Remember, the taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit must file a paper tax return because of the added documentation requirements.