September 26, 2018 10:09 pm

Payment of Ex-Spouse’s Student Loans Was Alimony

A couple got divorced in Nevada in 2011. Their agreement provided for tax-free transfers of property as well as spousal support. One spouse made payments on the other’s Sallie Mae student loans and claimed an alimony deduction for them. The IRS said the payments didn’t fit the definition of alimony. But the Tax Court disagreed with the IRS (Jeremy Adam Vanderhal, TC Summary Opinion 2018-41).

While property settlements incident to divorce are not taxable (nor deductible), payments can be taxable alimony deductible by the payer if the following conditions are met:

  • The payments are in cash
  • The payments are made under a divorce or separation agreement
  • The payments are not designated as something other than alimony
  • The spouses are not members of the same household
  • The liability to make payments ends on the death of the payer-spouse or the payee-spouse.

The IRS argued that the student loan payments were not alimony because they fell under the agreement’s paragraph on “Tax Free Transfers.” But the court pointed out that there is no reference in this paragraph to debt; the paragraph only refers to property. Because of this, and the fact that the payments met all the other terms for alimony treatment, the spouse’s payoff of student loans was deductible.

Tax Glossary

Qualifying widow or widower

A filing status entitling the taxpayer with dependents to use joint tax rates for up to two tax years after the death of a spouse.

More terms