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Writing is Taxing



Same-Sex Marriages
Now Recognized for
Federal Tax Purposes


In the past, taxpayers in same-sex marriages did not receive the same benefits as other married couples for federal income, gift, and estate tax purposes. However, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service recently issued a ruling that same-sex couples who have been legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes the marriage will now be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling was enacted after the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple currently lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes samesex marriage. In other words, so long as the couple was married in a jurisdiction that recognized their marriage, relocating to a jurisdiction that does not allow same-sex marriages will not nullify the marriage for federal tax purposes. Same-sex couples can move freely about the United States without worrying about the effect the relocation will have on their federal taxes.

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. Be aware, however, that the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under some state’s laws. In such cases, the taxpayers in these relationships will not be considered married for federal tax purposes.

In addition, be aware that each jurisdiction has the authority to determine whether the marriage will be recognized for purposes of taxes imposed by the particular jurisdiction.

Income Taxes.

While same-sex couples were not permitted to file as married for federal income tax purposes in the past, such couples will now be required to file under either married joint filing status or married separate filing status, starting with their 2013 return.

Besides filing status, other income tax provisions that are affected by marital status include claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction or itemized deductions, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

Same-sex couples are also now eligible to report their small business as a “qualified joint venture,” which allows both spouses to receive credit toward social security and Medicare. If your same-sex spouse assists you in your writing business, you should consider whether filing as a qualified joint venture makes sense for you. More detail is available at this link: Be aware that taxpayers in same-sex marriages might need to adjust their payroll withholding or the amount of estimated tax paid to ensure that the proper amounts are paid in. For information on how to adjust your withholding and how to compute your estimated taxes, take a look at IRS Publication 919 How do I Adjust My Tax Withholding? and Publication 505 Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax available at

Individuals in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for previous tax years that are still open under the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is generally three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances that permit    

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