HRC Blog

Significant Tax Day Changes for Same-Sex Couples After Supreme Court Victories

With historic victories for marriage equality at the Supreme Court of the United States last year, including the striking down of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Windsor case, tax day will change for thousands of married LGBT couples.  In an effort to clear the confusion around filing income taxes, HRC has created an online guide to filing taxes at http://www.hrc.org/taxes.      

“The LGBT community continues to make gains in the fight for full equality, and with those gains come the rights and responsibilities of marriage including tax filing at the federal level.  Because some states continue to ignore marriages, many couples will be required to jump through extra hoops” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  “As tax day approaches next week, thousands of legally married same-sex couples are scrambling to figure out what they need to do to file their taxes and we are proud to offer online resources to help.”

Prior to this year, legally married same-sex couples who lived in marriage states were required to file jointly in their state, but separately on the federal returns.  This year, the challenges shift to legally married same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states.  The Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which excluded same-sex married couples from all federal marriage benefits and programs—including federal income tax. In a revenue ruling issued this summer, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that legally married same-sex couples would be recognized for all federal income tax purposes, regardless of where they live. Under this ruling, the IRS will recognize married same-sex couples for the purposes of income tax, estate and gift taxes, and payroll taxes associated with many employee spousal benefits. 

However, this ruling does not affect whether the state in which a same-sex couples lives recognizes their marriage, meaning a couple may be recognized as married by the federal government but still considered single by the state government.  In some cases, the state may instruct a same-sex couple to use their federal filing status (e.g. “single,” “married filing jointly,” etc.) when preparing their state tax return. With the IRS’s ruling, this could create conflicting requirements based on state residency, and navigating them can be complicated and confusing.

HRC is proud to offer an overview of state income tax requirements and guidance provided by state revenue agencies for married same-sex couples at www.hrc.org/taxes

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