The IRS Will Recognize All Same-Sex Marriages

Today, just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury ruled that all legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

The Supreme Court’s June 26, 2013 decision in the Windsor case made it clear that same-sex married couples living in one of the U.S. jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage would qualify for federal benefits previously limited to opposite-sex married couples, including federal tax benefits. However, the Court did not address whether the IRS (or other federal agencies) would recognize the marriages of same-sex married couples living in non-recognition states.

Under Thursday’s Treasury ruling, all same-sex couples that are legally married in any U.S. state, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country will be recognized as married under all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor. This includes provisions governing:

  • filing status
  • personal and dependency exemptions
  • standard deductions
  • employee benefits
  • IRA contributions
  • the earned income tax credit, and
  • the child tax credit.

The Treasury Department further clarified that federal recognition for tax purposes applies whether a same-sex married couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage (such as California) or a non-recognition jurisdiction (such as Texas).

In short, it’s the place of celebration (where the marriage took place) not the place of residence (where the married couple lives) that counts. But the decision does not apply to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions.

“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.”

Legally married same-sex couples will file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status. They may also choose to file an amended return as a married couple and a refund claim for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For more information on the Treasury ruling, click here.

Fore up-to-date information on same- sex marriage laws, check out Nolo’s LGBT Law center.