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New Tax Bill Could Bring Refunds to Many Same-Sex Couples

Richard Neal and Elizabeth Warren
Richard Neal and Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Richard Neal have proposed letting married same-sex couples file amended returns back to the year of their marriage.

Two Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples married before the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down to file amended federal tax returns for additional years, possibly bringing many of them refunds.

After DOMA's section 3, barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, same-sex couples could file joint federal tax returns for the first time. President Obama directed his administration to let married same-sex couples file amended returns for previous years to the extent allowed by law, which meant those who believe they would have received a refund if filing jointly in 2010, 2011, or 2012 could submit an amended one.

The Refund Equality Act, introduced today by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Richard Neal, would let couples file amended returns back to the date of their marriage. That would bring them access to an estimated $67 million in refunds, said the lawmakers, both from Massachusetts, which in 2004 became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

"For nearly a decade, legally married same-sex couples had to file their taxes as single persons, often paying more taxes than they would owe if they could file as married," Warren said in a press release. "This bill is a simple fix to allow same-sex couples to claim the tax refunds they earned but were denied because of who they love."

"All legally married couples in this country deserve to be treated equally," added Neal. "This bill would codify into law an important correction that would enable same-sex married couples to go back and claim the tax refunds and credits for which they qualify. The Supreme Court has ruled as such, and now it's time for Congress to act and make sure all Americans are treated with the fairness and equality they deserve under the law."

Thirty senators and 39 House members, almost all Democrats, are cosponsoring the legislation. Not all married same-sex couples would benefit from its passage -- those in which both spouses have similar incomes would likely not receive a greater refund by filing jointly rather than separately, the Washington Blade notes. But others would see larger ones.

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