Saturday, August 31, 2013
The IRS and the Treasury Department has ruled that legally married gay couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes even in the states that do not allow gay marriage. This is the broadest change in the law since the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in June. The decision left many unanswered questions, but answered many after the IRS's ruling.
In 2013, gay married couples will no longer be permitted to file single tax returns. Gay couples can only file "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" federal tax returns. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew explained, “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.”
However, the recent decision could have some higher tax implications. Gay couples making roughly the same annual salary will probably pay the marriage penalty, which would be much higher than if they filed a single tax return. Additionally, even though couples file federal tax returns as married couples, they may still be required to file state returns as individuals.
See Annie Lowrey, I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages Regardless of State, New York Times, Aug. 29, 2013.Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.