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Joint no more? Tax returns look different after divorce

What in the world happened to January and February? It is March already, and April 15 is just around the corner.

Taxes can be confusing for newly divorced individuals, even without kids -- especially if you filed jointly in the past. Those of us who are not confused by the full impact of our changed marital status may not be aware of some parts of the tax code -- we may want to double check our returns to make sure we did everything right. 

A common question from people who divorced during the tax year -- in this case, 2014 -- is whether the costs of the divorce are deductible. They are not. Neither legal fees nor court costs are deductible.

However, tax advice is different from legal advice. If you have paid for tax advice in connection with your divorce -- including any tax work done to determine spousal maintenance -- those are deductible. According to the IRS, those fees may be paid to appraisers, actuaries or accountants.

In some situations, an accountant will send one invoice covering all services provided. The IRS recommends asking for an itemized breakdown for tax purposes. And, speaking of itemizing, these deductibles are reported on Schedule A, so you must itemize your return to take advantage of the deduction.

Also, the deduction is subject to a threshold -- 2 percent of adjusted gross income -- and your expenses may not meet the limit. You may not be eligible for that deduction.

Imagine how frustrating it could be if you and your spouse filed jointly and then filed for divorce before the tax refund arrived. How can you be sure you will get your share of the refund? How can you be sure your spouse will pay his or her share of the tax obligation?

In Minnesota, it is possible to file an amended state tax return. You may also file a refund claim. The Department of Revenue's website offers information about how to calculate what you are due and what you may owe.

The break-up was hard enough. Tax time does not need to be. Contact your divorce attorney for information and counsel about your new tax status.

Source: IRS, Publication 504: Divorced or Separated Individuals, 2014 Tax Year

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