The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced last Thursday that legally married same-sex couples will receive the same tax treatment and benefits as heterosexual couples, a decision that follows the Supreme Court ruling this summer that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
This tax treatment will apply even if a gay couple lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage so long as they were married in a state or country that does.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said of last week's announcement: “It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve.”
The administration said that same-sex couples can begin filing tax returns as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” for the 2013 tax year.
“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,” Lew said.
The decision was quickly cheered by supporters of equal marriage rights.
Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said “crucial” benefits will now be available to married same-sex couples.
“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 what state they call home,” Griffin said. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”
GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said the ruling helps “America moves one step closer to ‘liberty and justice for all.’”
A range of federal tax benefits will now be available to same-sex married couples, including employee benefits, how inheritances and estates are treated and the ability to claim the child or earned income tax credit.
Now, for example, if a same-sex married couple has health insurance through an employer, they will be able to treat the benefit as pre-tax income for both taxpayers.
This also changes the way estates can be passed between gay couples. Legally married same-sex couples will now have the same unlimited exemption that applies to heterosexual couples.
The tax treatment of same sex couples has played a pivotal role in the broader legal debate over gay marriage. Read more: