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Op-ed: A Quick Explainer on Same-Sex Couples, Taxes

Op-ed: A Quick Explainer on Same-Sex Couples, Taxes


Tax expert Nanette Lee Miller explains how same-sex couples can deal with the tangled ball of wires that is the American tax system.

In a couple of weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments related to California's Proposition 8, which rescinded marriage equality across the state, as well as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. But before either case potentially makes broad changes for the rights of same-sex couples, many of us, though legally wed, will still be forced to file individual income taxes for yet another year.

If you are in a same-sex relationship legally recognized in your state, it will affect how you file your taxes. If you're new to the disjointed state and federal laws for same-sex couples' taxes, do not expect the business-as-usual individual filing process. My firm created this map to specify how each state handles same-sex partnerships and taxes. Here's an overview.

State Return Issues
If your state recognizes your relationship, you will more than likely file a joint state individual income tax return. Both of you will have your income and deductions combined on one income tax return and be subject to the Married Filing Jointly tax table.

Federal Return Issues
If your state recognizes your committed relationship and you are in a community property state other than Wisconsin, you will be filing separate federal returns but allocating one half of your community property income and deductions to your other half, so it is almost like getting the benefit of filing a joint return with some good unexpected outcomes and some bad unexpected outcomes. The IRS has even created a form, Number 8958, to help you allocate your income and expenses.

There are now nine states that recognize marriage, one state that on a limited basis recognizes marriage (California), and 12 states that have rights similar to marriage. There are nine community property states, of which eight (all except Wisconsin) would force you to file an allocated federal return starting in 2010.

Confusing? Yes, which is why it is important for you to research your state issues or ask a knowledgeable tax adviser, what you need to do. Please take a look at the map for a visual representation of the current status of each state on individual LBGT taxes.

NANETTE LEE MILLER is the West Coast partner in charge of assurance services for Marcum Accountants and Advisors. Miller has more than 30 years experience in public accounting and provides assurance, accounting, and business consulting services to publicly and privately held businesses as well as not-for-profit organizations.

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