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In a landmark ruling announced by the Obama administration, married same-sex couples shall be treated as any other legally married couple–at least in the eyes the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes. This announcement follows and is consistent with the recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which only recognized “marriage” between that of a man and a woman.
Importantly, this ruling is limited to couples who have been legally wed in the 13 states that allow same-sex marriages; California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. These guidelines do not apply to those classified as being in Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships. However, all married same-sex couples will be able to file joint tax returns, even if they currently reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.For example, if a couple was married in New Hampshire in 2010, and recently moved to North Carolina, they will still be recognized as a married couple for Federal Tax purposes (but may still be required to file separately for state tax purposes).
This ruling offers immediate tax benefits for same-sex couples:
The biggest financial bonanza for some couples will be the tax exclusion for employer-paid health insurance, which many same-sex spouses previously bought on an after-tax basis. That could be worth more than $1,000 per couple.
“This is uniformly good for everybody,” said Todd Solomon, a lawyer who specializes in pension plans and benefits. “Their health benefits just went from taxable to non-taxable.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights group, said same-sex families “finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”
In conjunction with these health related savings, all same sex married couples may–but are NOT required to–file amended tax returns going back to tax year 2010. This could allow for additional refunds and/or for the off-set of tax liabilities that were previously unavailable to them. These guidelines apply to all Federal tax forms including Gift & Estate taxes, and will affect personal and dependent exemptions and deductions, employee benefits, IRA contributions and tax credits.