Updated: March 17, 2023
Alimony is a payment to or for a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation agreement. A divorce or separation instrument is one of the following:
- A decree of divorce or separate maintenance or a written instrument incident to that decree
- A written separation agreement
- A decree or any type of court order requiring a spouse to make payments for the support or maintenance of the other spouse. This includes:
- Temporary decree
- Interlocutory decree
- Decree of alimony
Change to Massachusetts Treatment of Alimony Payments as of January 1, 2022
Massachusetts legislation passed in 2022 provides that the Massachusetts personal income tax conforms to the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) in effect on January 1, 2022. Prior to this legislation, the Massachusetts personal income tax conformed to the Code as in effect on January 1, 2005. This updated Code conformity date resulted in Massachusetts picking up many changes to the Code between 2005 and 2022, including changes made to the federal tax treatment of alimony and separate maintenance payments. Effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022, alimony and separate maintenance payments are not deductible by the payer and such payments are no longer included in the Massachusetts gross income of the recipient. Following the federal treatment, these changes apply to payments made pursuant to a divorce or separation instrument executed after December 31, 2018, or under certain instruments executed on or before December 31, 2018, but later modified.
For tax years prior to 2022, Massachusetts conformed to the Code in effect on January 1, 2005, which allowed payers to deduct such payments, and included them in the gross income of the recipient.
Note: Alimony payments are not to be confused with child support payments. Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient, for both federal and Massachusetts income tax purposes.
In 2018, Code § 71(f), which governed instances of excess alimony or separate maintenance payments and allowed for the “recapture” of deducted, excess payments by requiring such excess amounts to be included in the payor’s gross income, was repealed for alimony or separate maintenance payments made pursuant to a divorce or separation instrument executed after December 31, 2018. Because the Massachusetts personal income tax now conforms to the Code in effect as of January 1, 2022, the alimony recapture rule under Code § 71(f) generally no longer applies for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022, except as specified for federal purposes.
However, for tax years prior to 2022, Massachusetts conformed to the alimony recapture rule under IRC § 71(f) in effect as of January 1, 2005. In certain cases where alimony or separate maintenance payments were front-loaded, excess payments, as defined under IRC § 71(f), were recaptured, i.e. included in the gross income of the payor and deducted by the recipient in the third calendar year after the divorce or separation. For information regarding the calculation of recaptured alimony or separate maintenance payments refer to IRS Publication 504.
- M.G.L. Chapter 62, Sections 2(a), (d)(1)
- TIR 23-5: Chapter 62 Conformity to Select Provisions of the 2022 Internal Revenue Code
- TIR 18-14: Impact of Selected Provisions of the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Massachusetts Personal Income Tax Under Chapter 62
- LR 85-38: Alimony and Child Support, Distinguished
- I.R.C. §§ 62(a)(10); 71, 71(f); 215 relating back to Section 62(a)(10)
- Pub. 504 Divorced or Separated Individuals
- 1986 Tax Reform Act, P.L. 99-514, Section 1843(c)(1), with an effective date of January 1, 1987