Alimony Tax Gross-Up Approved

August 09, 2010 | Alimony, Court Decisions, Divorce, Legal Perspective, Tax Issues

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

In Balicki v. Balicki, 2010 PA Super. 134 (July 30, 2010), the Superior Court considered the husband’s argument that the alimony order provided more income to his ex-wife than she could spend (as shown by her budgetary expenses). The trial court in its opinion justified the alimony award by noting that the wife would pay income tax on her alimony award, thereby reducing the after-tax dollars available to her. The trial court presented a seemingly reverse-engineered analysis of available income sources to prove that the income nearly matched wife’s claimed budgetary needs, thereby vindicating the result.

An important element of the trial court’s opinion was its calculation of the ex-wife’s income tax liability arising from her alimony award. The trial court held, and the Superior Court agreed, that a tax “gross-up” may be warranted under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3701(b)(15), one of the 17 statutory criteria for judging alimony claims. The trial court’s tax gross-up was triple the provision recommended by the master, but the trial court also disapproved the master’s inflated budget. These two adjustments offset each other, and the trial court affirmed the result reached by the master on different grounds.

The husband argued that the trial court had no right to reconsider the tax gross-up since neither party raised the issue in their exceptions from the master’s report. The Superior Court agreed that the trial court was not limited to the issues specifically raised on exceptions. Ironically, the Superior Court dismissed all of the husband’s allegations of error pertaining to specific items on wife’s budget, holding that they were waived because they were not specifically identified in the § 1925 statement.

All of the ex-wife’s issues on appeal, most of which seemed to be calculated to counter-balance husband’s appeals, were dismissed by the Superior Court, which affirmed the rationale of the trial court.

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