Pennsylvania Divorce Update: Proposed Changes to Realty Transfer Tax

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has proposed several important amendments to the regulations that implement the state's Realty Transfer Tax, suggesting that changes will enhance their clarity and effectiveness. The proposed changes, which were open to public comment through the end 2010 and are eligible for administrative approval after the first quarter of 2011, have significant implications for divorcing spouses in Pennsylvania.

Under current law, any transfer of real property between former spouses is not taxed as long as the property was owned by one or both of the spouses before the divorce decree was finalized. But the amended regulations allow for exemption only if the transfer was part of court-ordered property division pursuant to a divorce decree.

What is the significance of this lost opportunity for tax exemption? A divorced spouse who receives real property from his or her ex-spouse must pay one percent of the computed value based on the assessed property tax value. This is obviously no small matter when the property settlement aspects of the divorce process have already stretched a family's finances. People who are contemplating divorce are well advised to resolve real property transfers along with all other major decisions in divorce, such as child custody, visitation, spousal support (alimony) and child support and formalize agreements in a divorce decree.

A Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney Can Advise You About the Latest Family Law Developments

A host of complex financial issues can arise even in an uncontested divorce. Both spouses should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that all tax implications have been considered, and this is all the more true when complex assets, such as primary residences or vacation homes, are involved. In Pennsylvania, property division in divorce is governed by the principle of equitable distribution, meaning that an array of factors will direct the court's decision if parties cannot come to agreement.

The real estate downturn of recent years and the present state of tax law may have encouraged some couples to postpone decisions about the ultimate fate of a primary residence or vacation home until after divorce. A comprehensive review of the marital estate, from pensions, investments and income to the likelihood of spousal support, can allow an experienced family law attorney to provide targeted advice about protecting a client's future interests.