Many parents that are ordered to make child support payments reasonably assume that those payments can be claimed as a deduction, and are curious as to why they cannot list them as such on their tax returns. Their reasoning often comes from the fact that spousal support, or alimony, which many child support-payers also have to make, is deductible, and so therefore it would only make sense that you can claim child support payments as deductible as well.
However, this is not the case. This is an IRS issue, not a court issue, and so it is important to look at this issue from their perspective. Because these payments go towards supporting your children, these payments are considered as personal expenses. To provide some context, in their eyes, it is the same as if you were paying for your child’s expenses as you would if you and the other parent were married. But since you are separated, the custodial parent acts as a sort of middleman – the money you pay them goes towards payments for the children, just as if you were making the payment yourself for whatever their current needs are (food, clothes, etc). In addition, not only is child support NOT tax deductible, but the parent who is receiving these child support payments may not list it as taxable income.
There is another way in which tax money and child support are intertwined. Suppose you are behind on your child support payments, and at the same time are expecting a refund from your federal taxes. If you are indeed behind on child support payments, and do not remedy this, don’t expect to see any of that federal tax refund money. The Treasury Department will be made aware of your “maleficence” and will forward any tax refund you are entitled to, to your child’s state child support agency, who will then redirect that money to your child’s other parent, ensuring that your child receives the money that they are entitled to (remember, it is not the custodial parent that is entitled to receive this money for themselves, but rather for your child). Beyond that, there is no link between child support payments and taxes.