IRS Giving Federal Tax Benefits to All Legally Married Homosexuals, Regardless of State Law

Susan Jones | August 30, 2013 | 8:11am EDT
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Jen Rainin, left, laughs as her wife Frances holds up their dog Punum after they were married at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

( - The Internal Revenue Service doesn't care if same-sex marriage is illegal in your state. Even if it is, same-sex couples who were legally married another state will be treated as married for federal tax purposes in whatever state they call home.

Thursday's rule applies, "regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage," the IRS news release said.

But if same-sex marriage is illegal under state law, same-sex couples must still file their state returns as individuals.

"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 Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “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.”

But the conservative Family Research Council strongly opposes the IRS ruling:

"State family policies have been undermined today by the Obama administration," said Chris Gacek, senior fellow for regulatory policy at the FRC.

"The federal government should not, as (Supreme Court Justice Anthony) Kennedy stated in his opinion for the majority in U.S. v. Windsor, 'put a thumb on the scales and influence a state's decision as to how to shape its own marriage laws.' We disagree with this interpretation of Windsor and are displeased to see the Obama administration's lack of respect for state marriage laws."

The ruling follows the June 26 Supreme Court decision that invalidated a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income tax, gift tax and estate taxes. 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 same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status.

Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling.
However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.

Individuals who were in same-sex marriages 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.

“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of the state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.  “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”  

The IRS is one of several federal agencies -- along with the Office of Personnel Management and the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security -- to issue rulings or guidance on how benefits should flow to legally married homosexuals.

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