All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes

by Charles Joughin

Treasury, IRS interpretation of DOMA decision ensures federal tax benefits and protections for all married same-sex couples

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a ruling that will ensure all legally-married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live, will be recognized for federal tax purposes.  Recently the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. 

“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,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.  “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”  

Under this new ruling from the Treasury Department and the IRS, same-sex couples who are legally married will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income, estate and gift taxes.  The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple resides in a state or jurisdiction that recognizes their marriage. 

Prior to today’s ruling, lawfully married same-sex couples were forced to declare themselves “unmarried” to file their federal income tax returns.  Furthermore, transfers of property, gifts and inheritances between same-sex spouses were taxed, unlike those between opposite-sex spouses – as was the case in Edie Windsor’s successful challenge to DOMA before the Supreme Court.  Even the health insurance benefits provided for a same-sex spouse were treated as taxable income, costing the average same-sex couple over $1,000 a year in additional taxes.

Recently other federal agencies have issued similar rulings or guidance regarding the invalidation of Section 3 of DOMA, including the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.  Other agencies are expected to announce decisions on how benefits will flow to same-sex couples. 

Since the Supreme Court announced it would take up the challenge to DOMA in Windsor v. United States, HRC has been urging the White House and agencies across the government to make any necessary changes to policies, procedures and regulations to ensure the broadest implementation of a favorable decision on DOMA.  Earlier this month, HRC sent a letter to the Treasury Department and the IRS urging them to recognize all lawfully-married same-sex couples for their purposes.     

“We urge all federal agencies to the greatest degree possible to join the Treasury Department and the IRS in recognizing the legal marriages of all same-sex couples,” continued Griffin.  “No family should have to worry about losing important federal rights and benefits, simply because they live in a state that doesn’t recognize them as equal under the law.”

Click here for more information on how federal taxes impact married couples - note that this document will be updated to reflect today’s ruling.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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