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5 Am. J. Tax Pol'y 49 (1986)
The Alimony Deduction: Time to Slaughter the Sacred Cow

handle is hein.journals/ajtp5 and id is 55 raw text is: The Alimony Deduction: Time to
Slaughter the Sacred Cow
Each year over two million citizens obtain divorces.' As part of
the divorce process, many couples enter into agreements and
courts enter decrees requiring that one divorced spouse make pay-
ments to the other. As a result of these agreements and decrees
850,0002 divorced taxpayers, pursuant to sections 215 and 71 of the
Internal Revenue Code, either deduct from or include in their in-
comes certain payments-but millions of others do not.
This disparate treatment of divorced taxpayers results solely
from provisions enacted to give relief to taxpayers burdened by
both high alimony payments and the high income tax rates im-
posed during World War II. The original reason for these provi-
sions has disappeared as marginal tax rates have declined from a
high of 91 percent to 50 percent.4 Since the law governing the de-
duction of payments to a former spouse is inequitable, complex,
and arbitrary, I argue that all payments to and from divorced tax-
payers should be treated as nondeductible by the' payor and not
includible in the income of the recipient.
My argument takes on added force in the light of the propos-
als to reform the income tax. Each of the three most important
c Copyright 1985, Donald H. Berman
*Richardson Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law. LL.B., Harvard
University, 1962. LL.M., Harvard University, 1968. The author is grateful for the many
rigorous and insightful comments of Professor Daniel Schaffer.
1. In 1979 approximately 1,181,000 marriages affecting approximately the same num-
ber of children ended in divorce. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS, U.S. DEPr. OF COMMERCE, 1981
RETURNS 38, 46.
3. H.R. REP. No. 2333, 77th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1 SEIDMAN'S LEGISLATIVE His-
TORY OF FEDERAL INCOME AND EXCESS PROFITS TAX LAWS 1953-1939 1277 (1954) [hereinafter
cited as SEIDMAN].
4. Compare I.R.C. § 1 (1954) with I.R.C. § 1 (1984).

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