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How can filing my tax return help me with child support?

by | Dec 30, 2022 | Firm News |

We’re coming up on the end of another year, which means that we’re getting into tax season and talk about doing taxes. Some people prefer to put their taxes off until the annual April 15 deadline. Some even file extensions and kick the can down the road a little further. But it can be helpful for some of you out there to file your returns as soon as you can — especially those of you who are paying child support.

In many divorce cases involving children in Texas, child support is a primary issue. The State of Texas, through the Office of the Attorney General, has created a formula that bases the amount of child support owed on a few factors, and a calculator to help people figure it out.

While it is based on how much a parent makes, it factors in net resources rather than income (though figuring out net resources depends on knowing a parent’s income). It also factors in how many children a parent has to support, regardless of who the other parent might be. In some cases, a parent has created children with more than one partner, and that can become part of the equation.

People’s lives change in the 18 years that a child grows from a baby to a legal adult, which is why doing your taxes can help adjust child support amounts. If you’re making less money than you were when you first started paying child support, or if you’ve parented an additional child since that agreement first came to be, you can request a modification of your current child support agreement.

While you shouldn’t wait until you file taxes to initiate making the change, your tax form can be a key piece of evidence for a judge ruling on your case.

Also, as the Texas OAG site published earlier this year, filing a tax return giving you a refund could trigger garnishment from the IRS if you owe child support — but it could also help catch you up if you’re behind.

As it notes, “If you owe more than $150 in a public assistance case or more than $500 in a non-public assistance case, federal law requires that the IRS withhold some or all of your tax return, when you file your taxes.”

But the OAG site also provided information about a resource, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), available to lower-income people who need help filing their taxes. As the site points out, per 2021 tax laws, “You may be able to increase your tax return by claiming qualifying tax credits of up to $6,728!” Tax professionals can help you identify if you’re eligible for those credits, possibly positioning you to get a bigger refund.

Remember that even if you can’t afford the child support you’re paying now, you’re on the hook for the amount the court says you owe until you get it changed. At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we help parents modify child support agreements so they’re paying what is truly their fair share based on where their lives are now. In an initial consultation, we can determine what steps to take on your behalf as well as what homework you might have to do. (And, yes, that might just include doing your taxes.)