Same Sex Marriage: New Filing Guidelines from the IRS
Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The 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.
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. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
Legally married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.
Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.
Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a tax refund claim is 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 (such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open) that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
In addition, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.
According to a senior Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the IRS won’t be giving expedited treatment to the amended tax returns filed by same-sex married couples. Those tax returns will be handled in the normal course of business. In addition, the IRS does not plan to set up a dedicated unit to deal with the returns, as the number of amended returns expected to be filed are within the range typically handled by the IRS. At this point, the IRS also has no plans to set up any dedicated help lines to aid same-sex couples of their accountants with the new rules, but the Treasury may decide to set up such a facility, depending on the questions that come in and how they’re able to address them. Additional guidance is expected to be issued next month by the IRS.