America is a nation divided. Cat people vs. dog people. Trump people vs. Clinton people. And last week, we discovered a new gulf to bridge: “Brad” people and “Angelina” people. That’s right, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are filing for divorce after two years of wedded non-bliss. Will the “Brangelina” breakup turn into a fight club? Will it drag out, or will she be gone in 60 seconds?
Whose side are you on? How much do you care about the biggest celebrity divorce of 2016? Will you breathlessly wait for the next issues of your favorite supermarket tabloid, follow #brangelina on Twitter, and pass along rumors of infidelity, drug use, and child abuse? Or will you turn your nose up at the whole celebrity gossip machine and get on with your own life, #thankyouverymuch ?
Odds are good that our friends at the IRS will fall into that second group that just doesn’t care. It’s not that there aren’t oceans of money at stake — it’s just that the divorce isn’t likely to change how much of it falls into IRS hands. Let’s take a closer look:
- Jolie isn’t asking for alimony. But even if she were, both stars earn well into the top 39.6% bracket on their own. (Forbes estimates Pitt has raked in $315.5 million since the couple met, with Jolie picking up $239.5 million more.) Alimony is deductible by the payor and taxable to the payee. That means, with Brangelina, it would be deductible by Pitt at 39.6%, and taxable to Jolie at . . . 39.6%. It’s hard to see the IRS caring much who pays the tax on that last slice of income.
- Next, property settlements. Pitt is a renowned architecture buff, with homes in Malibu, Manhattan, New Orleans, and the south of France. Jolie was famous for wearing a locket of her ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck. (Let’s just call that “separate property” and move on.) But transfers of property between divorcing spouses are tax-free — as far as the IRS is concerned, it’s a wash no matter who winds up owning what.
- Next, child support. Jolie has requested full physical custody of the couple’s six children. (She’s accused Pitt of being an inglourious basterd with the kids.) If she wins, Pitt will probably wind up paying child support. However, child support in any amount is nondeductible by the payor and nontaxable to the payee. In fact, it doesn’t even appear on a tax return. Once again, there’s no reason for the IRS to get excited.
- If Pitt and Jolie really were just like us, the one area where the IRS might get concerned involves their filing status. Generally, when a couple earning more than about $100,000 gets divorced, they wind up paying less tax as singles than they would jointly. But again, Pitt and Jolie will both still pay the maximum 39.6% on the vast bulk of their income.
We talk a lot here about the importance of planning. When it comes to divorce, it’s almost inconceivable that Brangelina, with three previous divorces between them, didn’t have a plan for it — also called a prenuptial agreement. Now, prenups are an asset protection tool, not a tax-planning tool. But it’s equally inconceivable that a couple earning $555 million between them doesn’t also have a plan to beat the IRS. So, while we can’t get your picture on the cover of People magazine, we can help you with that same sort of protection. So call us!