Is Child Support Tax Deductible?

Paying child support is a tax-neutral event

Father sitting with his young child on his lap
Photo: Tara Moore / Getty Images

Parents who pay child support every month, or maybe even from every paycheck, may wonder whether those payments are tax deductible. Unfortunately, the answer from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is "Sorry, no."

Supporting your children, whether they live with you or whether you pay child support, is considered a personal expense. It's not tax deductible. But noncustodial parenthood can come with one or two other possible tax breaks. Here's what you need to know about how supporting children can affect your taxes.

Key Takeaways

  • Child support isn't tax deductible for the parent paying it, and it's not taxable as income to the parent receiving it. It's a tax-neutral event.
  • Noncustodial parents can still claim a deduction for medical expenses they pay for their children or child, but this is an itemized deduction that comes with some prohibitive rules.
  • You might be able to claim the Child Tax Credit in some cases.
  • The government can seize any tax refund you're expected to pay any past due and delinquent child support payments you owe.

Why Isn't Child Support Tax Deductible?

If you take your child to the mall to buy a new pair of shoes, that isn't tax deductible. The IRS regards child support payments the same way. The money will effectively be used to buy shoes (or something similar) regardless of whether you take your child to the mall or your ex does so.


It's all nondeductible, whether the payments go toward housing, clothing, or other personal support needs of your child.

Does Your Ex Have To Claim the Money as Income?

Your ex doesn't have to claim child support as income, either. Your child doesn't have to claim it as income, any more than they would have to report their allowance to the IRS.

The IRS states unequivocally that child support payments are never deductible for the payer and never taxed for the payee. Custodial parents should not include child support payments received in their gross incomes for tax purposes, even if they claim a child as a dependent. 


Child support is considered a tax-neutral event.

Applying Tax Law

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 61(a) says that gross income covers all income from any source except "as otherwise provided." The IRS clarified in a 2016 statement that the "as otherwise provided" applies specifically to payments related to "the support of children."

How Alimony Payments Affect Taxes

The IRC makes a firm distinction between child support and alimony because unlike child support, alimony and spousal support used to be tax deductible. The person paying alimony was able to deduct these payments from their taxable income, and the person receiving the payments had to include it in their gross income for tax purposes.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated the alimony tax deduction beginning with divorce agreements entered into and divorce decrees issued from January 1, 2019 going forward. Unlike many aspects of personal taxes affected by the TCJA, this provision doesn't snap back at the end of 2025. It's permanently gone.

The Medical Expense Deduction

Noncustodial parents aren't completely left out in the cold with regard to tax deductions. The IRS is willing to provide a tax break when it comes to medical expenses you pay on behalf of your children.

You can claim an itemized deduction for your child's medical expenses even if they don't live with you, provided that you personally paid an insurance company or healthcare provider, your child lived with you or your ex for at least half the year, they're related to you, and you and your ex paid for more than half their support during the tax year in question.

Unfortunately, you must itemize to claim this deduction, and that means forgoing the standard deduction for your filing status. That wouldn't make sense unless the total of all your itemized deductions were to exceed the amount of the standard deduction you're entitled to claim in that tax year. And you can only claim a deduction for medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).


The standard deduction for single taxpayers for the 2022 tax year (the return you'll file in 2023) is $12,950. It increases to $13,850 in 2023. The total of all your itemized deductions would have to exceed these amounts to make itemizing worth your while. Otherwise, you'll pay tax on more income than you have to.

The Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit is also still alive and well. It's worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child in tax year 2022 for those earning up to $200,000.

Noncustodial parents can claim this credit if they were entitled to claim their child or children as dependents because the custodial parent gave them this right by completing and signing IRS Form 8332. Special qualifying rules apply to the children of divorced, separated, or never-married parents.


The noncustodial parent must submit Form 8332 with their tax return.

Child Support in Arrears

You can't use your child support payments to offset taxes you owe, but your tax refunds can be seized to catch up any unpaid and past-due child support obligations. The Treasury Department will intercept federal tax refunds from people who are behind on their child support payments, sending the money instead to custodial parents who were entitled to receive that support.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does child support work?

Child support is the payment of money by a noncustodial parent to a custodial parent. It's enforced by state and local governments to ensure that noncustodial parents meet their legal obligation to support their children. Each state agency has a slightly different process, but you can usually enter into a child support arrangement on your own initiative. If the custodial parent files a child support claim against you, the court will initiate a process to confirm parentage, determine payment obligations, and set the terms of your payment arrangements.

Who pays taxes on child support?

Child support payments are not deductible for the payer, nor are they taxable to the recipient. Any money you pay in child support has already been taxed as part of your income.

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  1. IRS. "Alimony, Child Support, Court Awards, Damages 1."

  2. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "26 U.S. Code § 61. Gross Income Defined."

  3. IRS. "Number: 201648001." Page 3.

  4. IRS. "Be Tax Ready – Understanding Tax Reform Changes Affecting Individuals and Families."

  5. IRS. "Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses."

  6. IRS. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022."

  7. IRS. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2023."

  8. IRS. "2022 Instructions for Schedule 8812."

  9. IRS. "Tax Information for Non-Custodial Parents."

  10. Bureau of the Fiscal Service. "Treasury Offset Program."

  11. National Conference of State Legislatures. "Child Support Resource Directory."

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