Tuesday, March 12, 2013
As I have previously discussed, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Windsor v. United States. The case involved Edith Windsor and her wife Thea Spyer. When Thea passed away, Edith inherited her entire estate. The problem here was that Edith and Thea was a same-sex couple; therefore, their marriage was not recognized by the federal government and Edith was not able to take advantage of marital deduction. Without the marital deduction, Edith incurred a large estate tax. Now that the case is before the United States Supreme Court, what would happen if the justices concluded that DOMA does violate the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause?
Some experts believe, from the estate tax perspective, the change would not be that large. According to Reuters, “[t]he Williams Institute, a University of California-Los Angeles think tank that studies sexual orientation, estimates that if DOMA is overturned, only about 50 same-sex couples would qualify for the spousal exemption each year.” The much larger change would come in the rules that govern income tax filing. With invalidation of DOMA, same-sex couples would likely face many of same problems that heterosexual couples now experience when filing their taxes. This means that some same-sex couples (likely the working poor or the wealthy) could face the “marriage penalty,” while middle class couples could get the tax break. The point to take away here is that fiscal equality does not always equal a fiscal positive.
See Kim Dixon, Analysis: Death, Taxes and Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Case, Reuters, Mar. 7, 2013.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.