One of the last-minute changes to the Republican tax bill likely would mean fewer holiday divorces this year.
The change moves back the effective date for repeal of the alimony deduction, which under current law allows alimony payers to deduct payments from their income.
In the final joint House-Senate tax bill, the deduction would be taken away for divorces that occurred after 2018. In the House version, it would have been repealed for divorces at the start of 2018, in just two weeks.
Imposing the measure that quickly would have given couples eyeing divorce a tax incentive to go through with it in a rush. Instead, they now would have a year to think about it.
“Individuals and lawyers who were rushing to conclude matters by year-end solely to ensure they had qualifying deductible alimony, have a year reprieve,” said Susan Steffey, a member of the domestic relations and family law practice group at the law firm Watkins & Eager.
Repeal of the deduction is just one of many provisions in the major tax overhaul meant to raise revenue to offset the rate reductions and other new tax breaks in the bill. The provision would raise nearly $7 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.
The bill also would exclude alimony payments from the income of recipients. The combined effect would be to prevent divorced couples from reaping tax savings by shifting income from the payer spouse, who might be in a higher tax bracket, to the recipient.
The change in the effective date is one example of the moving start dates in the final version of the bill.
Most notably, the corporate tax rate of 21 percent begins in 2018 in the final bill. In the Senate version, the corporate rate wouldn’t have begun until 2019.
That particular change added to the costs of the bill. Others raised more revenue. For example, the final bill moved up the enactment of one provision, viewed by some budget experts as a gimmick, that would require companies to amortize research and experimentation costs over a longer period of time. Changing the effective date freed up about $60 billion on paper for Republican taxwriters to dedicate to tax cuts.