American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

All legally married gay and lesbian couples to receive tax benefits, Treasury Department announces

Thursday the Treasury Department announced that married gay and lesbian couples who are legally married will receive federal tax benefits, regardless of where they live. The decision comes in response to June’s U.S. Supreme Court victory that prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

 “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.

As long as you are legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes marriage equality—for instance, one of the 13 states or 14 countries with marriage equality,Washington, D.C., or elsewhere—you’ll be able to file jointly for taxes, and receive other benefits such as avoiding lofty inheritance taxes upon the death of your partner.

The implications of this decision are widespread. Gay and lesbian couples can now get married in a state like California and then live or move to any state, regardless of whether or not it recognizes their marriage, and still be treated as equal under federal tax law.

In response, AFER co-founder and HRC president Chad Griffin heralded today’s announcement:

“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home. These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”

Here are six important things to note, from the Treasury Department:

  1. Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
  2. Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
  3. Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.
  4. Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.
  5. Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances (such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open) that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
  6. Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.


Topics: Blog, DOMA