Q&A: Receipting Contributions from a Divorced Couple

How should giving statements look after a separation?

How should a church receipt charitable contributions for a married couple who gets divorced during the year?

In general, apportionment of items of income are expected to follow the source of the income. Wage income is allocated to the spouse performing the job and receiving the Form W-2. Personal deduction items are expected to be allocated equally between spouses, unless the evidence shows that a different allocation is appropriate. For example, a charitable contribution normally would be allocated equally to both spouses. However, if the wife provides evidence that the deduction relates to the contribution of an asset that was the sole property of the husband, any deficiency assessed because it is later determined that the value of the property was overstated would be allocated to the husband.

In summary, a church ordinarily should treat divorced spouses as having contributed equally to charitable contributions made by them prior to their divorce. To illustrate, if a married couple is divorced in November of 2012, then the church should equally divide total contributions made by the couple up to the time of the divorce, and issue a contribution receipt for 2012 to each spouse reflecting half of the total contributions made prior to the divorce. This assumes that a court has not issued an order dictating a different result. In some cases, a court that issues a divorce decree and property settlement may specify how a charitable contribution deduction for the final year of marriage is to be allocated.

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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