If you are divorced or separated your legal documents might have you either pay alimony to or receive alimony from your ex-spouse. When you receive alimony, you are required to report the income on your 1040, line 11 on the 2013 form. If you paid alimony, you are allowed to deduct it on your 1040, line 31a, even if you don’t itemize your deductions.
How does the IRS know when someone pays alimony and someone receives it? To get the adjustment for alimony paid you would need to list your ex’s social security number along side the amount. The IRS can then check the ex’s tax return to make sure he/she reported the income. If you don’t include your spouse’s social security number you can face a $50 penalty, and the IRS can disallow the deduction.
Make sure not to confuse alimony for child support. Child support is neither tax deductible to the payer nor taxable to the recipient.
There are more complicated issues around alimony, such as payments to third parties on behalf of an ex or payments for a jointly-owned home. If you are getting divorced, you need to consult a CPA regarding income tax planning issues.