Yesterday the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that legally married same-sex couples will be recognized and treated as married for all federal tax purposes. As long as the couple is legally married it does not matter if they live in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriages. The announcement comes just months after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which held that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated principles of equal protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The ruling gives married same-sex couples the freedom to move throughout the United States without having to worry about federal tax implications. However, the ruling does not apply to couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions.
Yesterday’s “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.” IR-2013-72. The ruling is to be applied retroactively so married same-sex couples have the opportunity to file or amend federal tax returns for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 tax years. Before amending returns, couples will want to determine if their combined income will subject them to the “marriage penalty” which could place them in a higher tax rate bracket.