By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2013 3:15 PM ET
Legally married same-sex couples will now be treated as such for federal tax purposes, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced today.
The ruling implements the tax aspects of the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s section 3, which prevented the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages. It applies to all couples in legal marriages, even if they don’t live in a state that recognizes their union.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Treasury secretary Jacob J. Lew in a press release. “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.”
Today’s ruling applies to those who entered into a legal marriage in any U.S. state or territory, the District of Columbia, or any foreign country. It does not, however, apply to couples in domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other not-quite-marriage relationships recognized by state law.
“Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes,” the Treasury-IRS press release reads. “The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”
Legally married couples generally will be required to file their 2013 federal tax returns using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” status. They also “may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations,” according to the announcement. Refund claims can still be filed for 2010, 2011, and 2012, and some people may have special circumstances that allow them to file such claims for earlier years.
Marriage equality activists praised the ruling but said it points up the need for equal marriage rights nationwide. “Freedom to Marry commends the administration’s swift implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling for federal equality in an area that will have a direct, tangible impact on families’ financial health,” said Evan Wolfson, the group’s founder and president, in a prepared statement. “The fact that this new respect applies only to married couples — not those joined by domestic partnerships or civil unions — highlights the need for an America where everyone can marry the person they love in any state, and have that marriage respected at all levels of government.”
Earlier today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that legally married same-sex couples will receive the same treatment under Medicare as straight couples, another implementation of the Supreme Court ruling.