05 June 2017

Is Spousal Support Paid to a Canadian Recipient by a Payor in the United States Taxable in the Hands of the Recipient?

Karen F. Redmond
Family Law Lawyer and Mediator


Recently in Court a Judge asked a colleague and I this question and although we were all fairly sure we knew the answer, none of us knew with certainty, so here is the answer:   Yes, spousal support paid to a Canadian recipient by a payor in the United States is taxable in the hands of the recipient and deductible by the payor in certain circumstances. 

A US citizen (or a US resident who is not a US citizen) can deduct spousal support payment paid to a Canadian resident.  Here is Article XVIII paragraph 6 of the Canada-US tax treaty (http://www.fin.gc.ca/treaties-conventions/unitedstates-etatunis-eng.asp) :


 “ 6.  Alimony and other similar amounts (including child support payments) arising in a Contracting State and paid to a resident of the other Contracting State shall be taxable  as follows:


                          (a) such amounts shall be taxable only in that other State;


                           (b) notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (a), the amount that


would be excluded from taxable income in the first-mentioned State if the recipient were a resident thereof shall be exempt from taxation in that other State.”


Therefore, yes, the spousal support income is taxable in Canada to the recipient who is a Canadian resident and the spousal support is deductible by the payor in his/her US tax return.  In addition, the spousal support income is not taxable in the US for the recipient.


Having said that, please note the following, sent to me by a tax colleague:


1.       In order for the US citizen to deduct the spousal support in his/her US tax return:


  1. The recipient must have a US tax number (US Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).  This may imply that the recipient must be willing to apply for the tax number.



  2. Without a US tax number for the recipient, the IRS will deny the spousal support  deduction.  In IRS’ point of view, a person who does not have a US tax number does not exist.


2.   I cannot conclude if the US citizen must withhold 15% US tax on the alimony paid if he resides in the US.  You may need to seek additional advice if you require further clarification.  


3.   Based on the treaty table provided by the IRS (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/Tax_Treaty_Table_1.pdf), it is silent if alimony is subject to withholding tax (see Belgium or Bulgaria where footnote f specifically mentions “include alimony”).


4.  Based on IRS’ Publication 515 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p515.pdf) Page 32 and 51, the IRS now does not require any US tax withholding on alimony payment to non-resident.  Here is the quote:


 “Income that is exempt under a treaty is not subject to withholding at source
        under the statu­tory rules discussed in this publication”


No comments:

Post a Comment