For married couples thinking about divorce, the end of 2018 means more than just worrying about who to kiss at midnight.
Under the GOP’s tax overhaul, divorce agreements finalized after January 1 will no longer be eligible for a 75-year-old tax deduction for alimony payments. But those settled before the new year will be grandfathered in under the old rules, potentially saving tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of dollars over the life of a divorce settlement. The holidays are usually a sleepy time for matrimonial attorneys, according to Jacqueline Newman, a partner at the matrimonial law firm Berkman, Bottger, Newman & Rodd in Manhattan. "I always say you never want to serve someone a summons in their stocking," she said.
But with so much on the line, some lawyers are scrambling — and maybe even canceling their vacations — to get these deals inked before the ball drops. The new tax laws might also affect the way divorce is negotiated in the future. Under the old rules, the deduction meant that alimony would cost less to the person paying for it than it was worth to the person receiving it. That incentivized more-generous alimony agreements. But the new rule flips that around. Now, people who get alimony won’t have to pay taxes on it, but alimony payers won’t be able to deduct the payments from their income. In other words, paying alimony just got more expensive.
According to Congressional estimates, the IRS will reap $6.9 billion in new tax revenue over the next 10 years from eliminating the deduction. But the people paying the taxes aren’t necessarily who you think.
This segment originally aired December 19, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.