Child support isn’t tax-deductible for the parent that pays it, nor is it taxable income for the parent who receives it. However, there are other tax benefits available that parents might qualify for.
When parents go through a divorce, it’s often the case that one parent is required to pay child support to the other parent. These court-ordered payments help to pay for the costs required to raise a child, including food, housing, clothing, and more.
If you pay child support to your child’s other parent, it can eat up a sizable portion of your income. And you might find yourself wondering whether there’s any sort of tax break available to you. In this article, we’ll discuss whether child support is tax-deductible and some of the other unique tax characteristics of child support and raising a child.
Is child support tax-deductible?
The short answer is that no, child support isn’t tax-deductible. As a result, you won’t be able to reduce your taxable income with the funds you’ve paid to your child’s other parent.
You might be wondering why child support payments aren’t tax-deductible. After all, it’s an often significant amount of money going out of your bank account each month. Look at it this way—when you buy groceries or a new pair of shoes for your children, those expenses aren’t tax-deductible. Since child support is intended to help cover those day-to-day expenses of raising a child, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be tax-deductible either.
Does child support count as taxable income?
Just as child support isn’t tax-deductible for the parent who pays it, it also doesn’t count as income for the parent who receives it. It also doesn’t count as income for the child the support is intended to benefit.
The primary reason child support payments received aren’t considered income for tax purposes is because it’s already been taxed. When the noncustodial parent earns money, they pay income taxes on it, just as they would any other income. As a result, it’s not necessary for that income to be taxed a second time when it changes hands to the custodial parent.
Other tax benefits available
While you can’t deduct the child support you pay on your income taxes, as a parent there may be other tax deductions you can take advantage of. Whether you’re actually eligible for these deductions will depend on what expenses you cover for your children, as well as what your court documents say regarding your custody arrangement. In many cases, those documents will already indicate which parent is allowed to claim certain tax deductions.
Child tax credit
The child tax credit is one of the most popular tax benefits for parents. It allows parents to claim $2,000 per qualifying child, with up to $1,400 of that amount being refundable (meaning you can receive it even if it exceeds your actual tax liability).
In most cases, it’s the custodial parent who gets to claim the child tax credit. However, many custody arrangements have parents switching off each year.
Child and dependent care credit
The child and dependent care credit is available to parents who paid for daycare or other childcare expenses during the tax year. According to the IRS restrictions, the custodial parent is the one able to claim the qualifying child for the child and dependent care credit.
Earned income tax credit
The earned income tax credit (EIC) is available to low- and middle-income families who have an earned income under $57,414 (as of 2022). To qualify for this credit, only one parent may claim the child on their tax returns, which may depend on who the child lived with the longest throughout the tax year.
Higher education tax credits
If you have a child or children attending college, you may qualify for a tax break for any financial support you provide. The American Opportunity Tax Credit allows families to receive a credit of up to $2,500 per year per eligible student, and the lifetime learning credit allows families to receive up to $2,000 per tax return.
Medical expenses deduction
If you paid for medical or dental expenses for your child, you may be able to deduct them from your taxes. This deduction is available when your medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
You can claim this deduction even if you are the non-custodial parent, as long as you’re the one who paid for those medical expenses. It’s important to note that to claim this deduction, you must itemize your tax deductions rather than claim the standard deduction.
Self-employed health insurance deduction
If you’re self-employed and pay for health insurance for your child, you can deduct the cost of your premiums on your tax return. You don’t have to be the custodial parent to claim this deduction—you simply have to be the one who pays for the qualifying health insurance.
Child support in arrears
Child support arrears refer to unpaid child support that you were court-ordered to pay. If you’ve failed to pay your child support, the child’s custodial parent may seek the help of your state’s child support agency in collecting it.
Depending on what state you live in, there are several collection methods the government may use to get those unpaid support payments.
- Garnishing your wages
- Freezing your bank account or seizing property
- Garnishing your government benefits
- Garnishing your tax refund
If your child’s other parent has to take you to court to collect back child support, you may also be on the hook for paying for that parent’s attorney. In situations where the state can’t collect your child support arrears and you refuse to pay, there could even be criminal consequences.
It’s important to know that even if you move to another state, there are still collection methods available to collect child support, including garnishing your federal tax refund.
Child support vs. alimony
You’ve probably heard the term “alimony” within discussions about paying child support. Child support payments are money that one parent pays to another to benefit a child, often intended to pay for expenses like food, clothing, healthcare, and more.
Alimony — also known as spousal support — is intended to benefit the former spouse. Alimony payments are intended to help a spouse maintain their standard of living after a divorce. It’s not always required after a divorce but often is if one parent earned significantly less money, or left the workforce to care for dependent children.
Is alimony tax-deductible?
Historically, the IRS treats child support and alimony differently. We’ve already discussed how child support payments aren’t tax deductible for the parent paying it, nor does it count as income for the parent receiving it.
In previous years, alimony has been the opposite. The spouse paying the support could deduct it from their taxes, while the spouse receiving it had to claim it as taxable income. However, the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act changed the tax treatment of alimony. Now spousal support payments aren’t tax-deductible, nor are they considered taxable income for the person receiving them. The new tax treatment for alimony payments began in the 2019 tax year.
Can the IRS take my entire refund for child support?
If you owe child support in arrears, then yes, the IRS can garnish your entire tax refund to pay the past-due child support you owe.
Which parent has the right to claim a child on taxes?
In most cases, it’s the custodial parent that claims the child on their taxes. For parents that share custody, the court may order the parents to take turns claiming the child.
Is the IRS connected to child support?
The IRS doesn’t determine who owes child support, nor do they facilitate payments. However, they may help to collect back child support by garnishing federal tax refunds.
- Child support is not tax-deductible for either the custodial or non-custodial parent. However, certain families may qualify for other tax benefits, including higher education tax credits and EITC.
- Since it is already taxed, the IRS does not consider child support as taxable income.
- If you refuse to pay child support, the IRS can reclaim those funds by garnishing your tax refund, wages, or government benefits.
- While child support payments fund necessary purchases for children, alimony payments are intended to support the former spouse.
View Article Sources
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- New York Child Support Online — New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
- IRS Letters and Notices: What To Do If You Got One — SuperMoney
- What Is Tax Planning? A Guide For Beginners — SuperMoney
- How to Get Out of Tax Debt: Options and Solutions — SuperMoney
- Do I Have To Pay Taxes On My Checking Account? — SuperMoney
- What Happens If You Don’t File Taxes? — SuperMoney
- Best Tax Preparation Firms | April 2022 — SuperMoney