Same Sex Couples vs Federal Tax Law

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Same Sex Couples vs Federal Tax Law


The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS issued new regulations as a direct result of the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex couples. Under the ruling any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory that recognizes same-sex marriage will be treated as married for all federal taxpurposes. This includes:

  •  filing status
  • personal deductions
  • dependency exemptions
  • standard deductions
  • employee benefits
  • tax credits
  • retirement plans and contributions


More importantly, this ruling applies regardless of where the same-sex couple currently lives. In other words, if the same-sex couple is legally married in one state, but then moves to another state that does not recognize the marriage, they are still married for Federal Income Tax purposes.

Things to note

  • Beginning in 2013, same-sex couples within this ruling must file either married filing jointly or married filing separately. You may no longer file as single taxpayers.

    • You may choose to, but are not required to, file amended tax returns as being married for any prior tax years that are still open under the statute of limitations. This usually means three tax years (2010, 2011, and 2012).

    • This ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships.

    • If you paid for same-sex health insurance coverage from an employer in after-tax dollars you may be able to shift these premiums into pre-tax dollars.

    • State laws are more complex and are currently evolving so try to keep informed of any new developments on this front.

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