U.S. Government Will Recognize Same-Sex Couples For Tax Purposes

CREDIT: Stacy Bengs / AP

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

Same-sex couples who legally marry in one of the 13 states with marriage equality (and counting), the District of Columbia, or a foreign country will be treated equally for tax purposes, according to a new ruling by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The guidance, announced Thursday, applies to all married couples, regardless of whether they currently reside in a state that considers them legally married.

The policies reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection rights of same-sex families.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced, “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. 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.”

Under the rules, legally-married same-sex couples generally will be required to using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status when they file their 2013 federal income tax returns. Those couples will also be able to amend filings for 2010, 2011, and 2012 to reflect their correct status for those years, if they so wish.

It is unclear how this will affect same-sex couples who are legally married and filing jointly under federal guidelines, but are legally considered strangers by the state in which they currently reside — one of the many questions likely to come up as federal courts continue to weigh whether state marriage inequality laws also violate the U.S. constitution.

Under the policy, couples in state civil unions and domestic partnerships will not be treated as legally married for tax purposes — rendering these separate classes even more unequal than they already were.