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Research Assignment #2

Blanche Creek has engaged your firm because she has been charged with failure to file her 2016

federal Form 1040. Blanche maintains that the “reasonable cause” exception should apply.

During the entire tax filing season in 2017, she was under a great deal of stress at work and in

her personal life. As a result, Blanche developed a sleep disorder, which was treated through a

combination of pills and counseling.

Your firm ultimately prepared the 2016 tax return for Blanche, but it was filed far beyond the

due date (on August 30, 2019). Blanche is willing to pay the delinquent tax and related interest.

However, she feels that the failure to file penalty is unfair, as she was ill. Consequently, she

could not be expected to keep to the usual deadlines for filing.

Write a memo to the client file discussing whether Blanche has “reasonable cause” to avoid the

failure to file penalty. Your memo should not exceed two pages in length. Please single-space

your memo and double-space in between paragraphs. Cite your authority. The following format

would be appropriate for this assignment:




Summarize the relevant facts


Phrased as a single question – what is the research issue?


Provide a conclusion for each research issue identified; generally, the conclusion

is a sentence or two


Discuss relevant tax law and how it applies to the transaction – be sure to cite

your primary sources!


Date: February 8, 2019

From: Tax Student (should be your name)


Ann Thomas is required under a divorce decree to pay $2,000 a month for alimony and $3,000

a month for child support to her ex-husband John Morgan. During 2017, Ann only paid $4,000

per month to John claiming that the child support obligation was too high.


How should Ann’s monthly payments to her husband be treated on her 2017 tax return?


Of Ann’s $4,000 per month payments, $3,000 should be treated as child support. The remaining

$1,000 should be treated as payment towards alimony.


Alimony payments and child support payments are treated differently under tax law. According

to Section 215(a), alimony payments are deductible by the payer, and pursuant to Section

71(a), alimony received is included in the gross income of the recipient (provided the divorce or

separation instrument is executed prior to 1/1/2019). Section 71(c)(1) provides that child

support payments do not fall under the definition of alimony, and, therefore, child support

payments are not deductible by the payer and are not included in the gross income of the

recipient. Section 71(c)(3) states that if the payer spouse fails to pay the full amount specified in

the separation instrument, child support is treated as paid first. Therefore, $3,000 of Ann’s

monthly payment is treated as child support. The remaining $1,000 is treated as an alimony



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