San Francisco Tax Preparation / CPA: Ex-Spouse Health Insurance Premiums Deductible as Alimony

Filed in CCH NEWS FEED by on November 24, 2021

An individual was allowed to deduct the amount of premiums paid to provide health insurance coverage for his ex-spouse as alimony. The taxpayer had agreed to pay his then spouse’s health insurance premiums, incident to a separation agreement pending divorce, through a cafeteria plan provided by the taxpayer’s employer. Subsequently, the taxpayer had excluded the amount equal to the health insurance premiums pursuant to Code Secs. 106 and 125 from his gross income and also claimed an alimony deduction pursuant to Code Secs. 62 and 215 for the portion of the premiums covering his then spouse.

Double Deduction
There was no dispute that the taxpayer was entitled to exclude the health insurance compensation from his gross income. However, the IRS had challenged the taxpayer’s attempt to also deduct the alimony payments and argued that permitting the alimony deduction would create a windfall to the taxpayer by granting him the practical equivalent of multiple deductions for the same economic outlay. The tax court held that disallowing the alimony deduction would leave the taxpayer with a greater tax burden that would counter the intended purpose and operation of the general alimony regime. Therefore, the taxpayer undisputably qualified for both the exclusion and the alimony deduction, and no double tax benefit outcome could arise when considering the alimony regime as a whole. By asking to disallow the alimony deduction where the law plainly permits the taxpayer this right, the IRS attempted to disrupt the uniformity of the general alimony regime under the guise of the double deduction rules when no such threat was present.

Deduction for Wholly Tax-Exempt Income
In addition, the IRS contended that Code Sec. 265(a) disallowed the taxpayer’s alimony deduction because it provides that an amount may not be deducted if it is allocable to wholly tax-exempt income (other than interest). The tax court, however, had never applied Code Sec. 265(a)(1) to disallow an alimony deduction, or, in any instance where the supposed exempt item of income at issue was actually included in gross income by a different taxpayer. Moreover, the alimony payments were not considered allocable to wholly tax-exempt income for Code Sec. 265 purposes as the taxpayer was required to include it in her income.