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What the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Could Do in Colorado

Say bye-bye to the maintenance deduction during divorce settlements


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Under Colorado law, a spouse may be entitled to financial support on a monthly basis following entry of a divorce decree. This support is called maintenance (also known as “alimony”). Currently, the spouse paying maintenance is entitled to receive a tax deduction, and the spouse receiving maintenance must pay taxes on the maintenance and declare it as income on their federal income tax return. 

The proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, unveiled by the Trump administration Nov. 2, 2017, proposes to eliminate the deduction for maintenance (alimony) payments made to an ex-spouse for Decrees entered into after Jan. 1, 2018 (see Section 1309 of the bill).

The net effect of the proposal is that the taxation is shifted from the maintenance recipient to the maintenance payer. This shift results in more taxes paid overall, because the spouse paying maintenance is usually in a higher tax bracket and subject to higher rates than the maintenance recipient is.

The end-result is that maintenance candidates in a divorce can expect to receive less. The proposed loss of deduction means there is less income to go around overall, because the maintenance payments will be made with the payer-spouse’s after-tax dollars. This will place additional strain on divorcing couples.

The current tax break for spouses paying maintenance often helps facilitate settlement between spouses on this issue. If the tax laws change, calculations for maintenance will be much more difficult, as the parties will need tax advice or attorneys that are experienced in tax matters. Mistakes in tax calculations could be very costly and create burdens for the parties. The current divorce statutes are not equipped to deal with the change in the law and would need to be amended. If the proposed elimination of this deduction is approved, then family law practitioners can expect the settlement discussions regarding maintenance to increase in conflict and complexity. 


Suzanne Griffiths is managing shareholder at Gutterman Griffiths P.C. She can be reached at suzanne@ggfamilylaw.com or 303.858.8090.
Eliza Seinberg is an associate attorney at Gutterman Griffiths P.C. She can be reached at esteinberg@ggfamilylaw.com or 303.858.8090.

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