More equality for same-sex couples – this time from the IRS

Marriage equality is officially the law of the land – at least in the eyes of our tax collectors.

The IRS and the Treasury Department have ruled that all married same-sex couples will receive the same tax treatment as heterosexual couples regardless of where they live, so long as they were married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriages.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “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.”

CPAs have been waiting for Treasury and the IRS to chime in on the subject ever since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages. The ruling gives us the final word on how same-sex couples will be treated as taxpayers – and with plenty of time before tax season.

A couple of interesting notes from Forbes contributor Robert Wood:

  • First, the ruling applies not only to income taxes but also to gift and estate taxes – "anywhere marriage is a factor," Wood writes.
  • Second, the ruling is retroactive. Married same-sex couples are allowed to file amended returns and claim refunds, if eligible, for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The ruling does not apply to domestic partnerships, civil unions, "or similar formal relationships recognized under state law that do not have the status of legal marriage under state law," according to the Journal of Accountancy.

Maryland joins 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing same-sex marriage. "Same-sex couples who were married in one of these jurisdictions or a foreign country but live in a state that does not recognize their marriage will be able to file federal taxes jointly," The Baltimore Sun reports.

Want to learn more?
Don't miss the two-hour MACPA webcast "Planning For Same-Sex Marriages After the Repeal of DOMA," scheduled for Sept. 9 and Oct. 16



Bill Sheridan