By: Dana M. Horlick, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group
Porter v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2015-141, 2015 WL 4638622 (2015)
(a) Facts: A husband and wife were divorced in Florida. The decree awarded the wife custody of the parties’ three children. It allowed the wife to claim the exemptions for the oldest and youngest children, but allowed the husband to claim the exemption for the middle child. The decree was signed only by the court.
In a following tax year, the wife claimed the exemption for all three children, while the husband claimed the exemption for the youngest child. The husband did not attach to his return Form 8832 or its substantial equivalent.
The IRS disallowed the husband’s exemption and assessed a deficiency. The husband filed an amended return claiming an exemption for the middle child, but the IRS did not change its position.
(b) Issue: Was the husband entitled to the dependency exemption?
(c) Answer to Issue: No.
(d) Summary of Rationale: The divorce decree was not a valid transfer of any exemption, because it was not signed by the wife. “Petitioner argues that the decree should nevertheless satisfy the “written declaration” requirement because it was signed by a State court judge. Unfortunately for petitioner, this Court, relying on the plain language of section 152(e), has consistently rejected that argument. ” 2015 WL 4638622, at *2.
“We are not unsympathetic to petitioner’s position. By requiring an unambiguous signed declaration by the custodial spouse, Congress sought to avoid complex factual inquiries into the subjective intentions of divorced parents. This statutory requirement may sometimes impose harsh results on taxpayers such as petitioner, when an ex-spouse claims dependency exemption deductions in violation of their divorce decree. But we are bound by the statute as written by Congress.” Id. at *3.
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