HRC Blog

IRS Provides New Guidance for Same-Sex Couples

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director

The IRS has published new Q & A guidance addressing specific federal tax issues faced by same-sex couples.   While the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the principal obstacle to equal treatment in federal taxation, another hurdle has been the lack of clear guidance from the IRS for LGBT people.  Tax time can be confusing and stressful for any family, but same-sex couples have struggled to figure out how to file their taxes and follow the law.  Without sufficient guidance, many in our community have had to rely on professional tax preparers or use pricy commercial tax software.  This burden costs LGBT families time and money.  And even these professional services have lacked the full information necessary to advise same-sex couples on how to properly file their federal taxes, including, for example, what deductions they can and cannot utilize.  In struggling to do the right thing, LGBT taxpayers have faced fines, interest and other penalties from the IRS.

Last week’s guidance takes a significant step forward to relieving this burden and equipping the nearly 650,000 same-sex couples across the country with the information they need to properly file.  This guidance provides clear information on filing status, tax credits, and when a same-sex partner’s child can be considered a qualifying child.  This guidance also shows the enduring impact of DOMA on achieving full equality for LGBT families—providing that same-sex partners may not file using a married filing status because federal law does not recognize their relationships. 

HRC has been pushing the IRS to provide more clarity for LGBT taxpayers and applauds the Service for taking this important step.  We will continue to push Congress to repeal DOMA through the Respect for Marriage Act, ensuring that lawfully married same-sex couples are treated equally by the federal government, including when they pay their taxes. 

Read the new guidance.

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