The IRS has announced that it will recognize same-sex marriages for the purpose of joint tax filings regardless of whether the state a couple lives in recognizes that marriage or not.
In a release posted to the U.S. Department of the Treasurer website under the banner “All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes,” the administration announced that all same-sex couples will be able to file as married from now on.
The notice cites this is a result of the June 26 Supreme Court decision in Windsor v United States by which the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prevented the government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Octogenarian Edith Windsor sued the federal government after having to pay an exorbitant tax on her deceased partner’s estate because the government treated the couple as legal strangers despite their state recognized marriage.
The Supreme Court found 5-4 that DOMA violates the United States Constitution because it is ”a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
As a result of this determination, same-sex couples who are married will from now on be treated as such for all federal tax purposes, including for income tax and estate tax.
Furthermore, and to make this even more clear, the decision applies for all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including but not limited to: 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.
Same-sex marriages are considered eligible if they were entered into in any U.S. state where same-sex marriage is recognized, the District of Columbia, any U.S. territory or any foreign country where the marriage was legally sanctioned. This recognition is not tied to whether the applicants currently live in a state that recognizes their same-sex marriage.
“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.”
Those who have already submitted returns may choose to and are permitted to file amended returns. The statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from paying the tax — whichever of the dates is the later of the two.
As such, claims may still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. There are also a number of special circumstances that may allow claims from 2009 or earlier. To find out more about those, please click here where you will find links to applicable resources.
On the same day this announcement was made, another important but seperate notice was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services clarifying that beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives regardless of the gender of that spouse — again, this is after careful review following the Supreme Court’s decision finding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Prior to this, seniors with Medicare Advantage may have faced the difficult reality of being forced to access coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse or having to forgo their Medicare Advantage plan which in turn would have meant larger out-of-pocket expenses for care in the same nursing home as their spouse.
As in the case of the joint tax announcement, the HHS statement explicitly states that Medicare coverage applies for same-sex married couples regardless of whether the state in which they currently live recognizes their marriage. For more information and resources, please click here.
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