Why are my support payments taxable?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Your Money Check Payment in Mailbox TNThere are two kinds of support payments: child and spousal. Child support payments are those payments that you and your spouse have agreed on, or are court ordered, to help cover the cost of raising the children by the one spouse. Spousal support payments are those payments that you and your spouse agreed on, or are court ordered, that cover that spouse’s own maintenance (living expenses). Generally, the agreement or order must stipulate whether the payment is a child or spousal support payment.

Your payment is considered a support payment if the following five conditions are met.

  1. The payment must be made under the terms of a court order or written agreement.
  2. If the recipient is the payer’s current or former spouse or common-law partner, the payer must be living separate and apart from the recipient at the time the payment was made because of a breakdown in the relationship. Otherwise, the payer must be the legal parent of a child of the recipient.
  3. The payment is made for the maintenance of the recipient, child of the recipient, or both, and the recipient has discretion as to the use of the amount.
  4. The allowance must be payable on a periodic basis. The timing of the payments must be set out in the court order or written agreement.
  5. The payments must be made directly to the recipient.

For tax purposes, child support payments are not taxable income to the recipient. However, they must be laid out in the court order or agreement as child support payments. If your order or agreement predates May 1 1997, then the recipient would have to include the payments as income, and the payer gets a deduction.

Spousal support payments are taxable income to the recipient, and a deduction for the payer. As with anything tax wise, there are exceptions. Child support has priority. If your court order or written agreement specifies child support payments and support payments for the recipient, priority is given to the child support.

This means that all payments made are first considered to have been made toward child support. Any amount paid over and above the child support amount is considered to be support payments for the recipient. All child support payable to a recipient must be fully paid before any amounts paid as support for the recipient can be claimed as a deduction. Any arrears in the amount of child support is carried forward and added to the next year’s support payable. The priority of child support does not apply when the child support and spouse or common-law partner support are payable under different court orders or written agreements and the recipients are different people.

Payments made after the death of the recipient are not deductible by the payer. Whether the payments are made to the estate or the children, these payments would not meet the conditions of a support payment. Payments made by the estate of a payer to the recipient are neither deductible nor taxable. The amounts do not meet the conditions of a support payment because an estate cannot have a spouse or common-law partner.

If you have to claim support payments you received, then it’s because they are for spousal support. Check your agreement or court order to ensure you are doing this correctly, and keep track of your child support payments as you may not have to claim the support payments if the child support is not paid in full.

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