My husband and I are going through a divorce. We agreed to joint custody and equal possession of our 2 kids meaning there is no "custodial/noncustodial" parent and the kids spend equal amount of time with each parent. What options do we have for who can claim the children? I know some parents do alternating years. Is it an option for me to claim one child and the father claim the other?
You have no court order right now, so you have some wiggle room. Actually the best route if you can be civil about it with each other is to file a joint return since you are still married. If you file married filing separately you lose a lot of credits.
If you were legally married at the end of 2019 your filing choices are married filing jointly or married filing separately.
Married Filing Jointly is usually better, even if one spouse had little or no income. When you file a joint return, you and your spouse will get the married filing jointly standard deduction of $24,400 (+$1300 for each spouse 65 or older) You are eligible for more credits including education credits, earned income credit, child and dependent care credit, and a larger income limit to receive the child tax credit.
If you choose to file married filing separately, both spouses have to file the same way—either you both itemize or you both use standard deduction. Your tax rate will be higher than on a joint return. Some of the special rules for filing separately include: you cannot get earned income credit, education credits, adoption credits, or deductions for student loan interest. A higher percent of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Your limit for SALT (state and local taxes and sales tax) will be only $5000 per spouse. In many cases you will not be able to take the child and dependent care credit. The amount you can contribute to a retirement account will be affected. If you live in a community property state, you will be required to provide additional information regarding your spouse’s income. ( Community property states: AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI)
If you are using online TurboTax to prepare your returns, you will need to prepare two separate returns and pay twice.
I believe we can come to an agreement as far as the 2019 tax return to file "married filing joint". I want to know what are my options for future years so that it can be included in our final divorce agreement which will be finalized this year.
For future years when you are legally divorced or separated living in different situations ...
There is a special rule in the case of divorced & separated (including never married) parents. When the non-custodial parent is claiming the child as a dependent/exemption/child tax credit; the custodial parent** is still allowed to claim the same child for Earned Income Credit, Head of Household filing status, and day care credit. This "splitting of the child" is not available to parents who lived together at any time during the last 6 months of the year; then only one of you can claim the child for any tax reasons. The tax benefits may not be split in any other manner.
Note in particular that the non-custodial parent can never claim the Earned Income Credit, Head of Household filing status or the day care credit, based on that child, even when the custodial parent has released the exemption to him.
So, it's good idea to let the other parent know that you will be claiming those items, as many first time divorced parents are not aware of this rule and may try to claim those items, which will cause the IRS to send out letters.
Scroll down to "Children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart)"
** The IRS goes by physical custody, not legal custody, for who is the custodial parent. Furthermore, for tax purposes, there is no such thing as joint custody, regardless of what your legal agreement says. The requirement, to be custodial parent, is that the child live with you MORE than 50% of the time. One of you has to be the custodial parent and the other the non-custodial parent. The IRS goes by physical custody, not legal custody.
There is no such thing as 50-50 custody. One of the parents has the child for more nights--at least 183 nights--and that is what the IRS goes by.
For when you are divorced:
Are you the custodial parent? Do you have an agreement with the other parent to allow the other parent to claim them--due to divorce or that you live apart and share custody? Did one of you sign a Form 8332?
If there is a signed 8332 then the custodial parent retains the right to file as Head of Household, get earned income credit and the childcare credit + education credits if the child is a full-time college student. The non-custodial parent gets the child tax credit for children under the age of 17.
As far as the IRS is concerned, the custodial parent is the one with whom the child spent the most nights during the tax year--at least 183 nights.
If you are a non-married couple who live together then only one of you can claim the child(ren) and the one not claiming the child does not enter anything at all on their tax return about the child.