When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, social conservatives consoled themselves by saying that the action did not mandate gay marriage across the board. That remains a decision for each state. But it does mean that the Federal Government now recognizes gay marriage. That was made clear when the IRS and the Treasury Department announced that same-sex marriages, no matter what state they were performed in, will qualify for all marriage deductions and other tax benefits that husbands and wives receive.
All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes no matter what state they live in, the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department announced Thursday in a change that will affect numerous couples in states that have not permitted gay marriage.
The change in policy follows the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes such as insurance benefits, immigration and tax filings.
The new approach “provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “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.”
Currently 13 states, including California, and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples who were married in one of these jurisdictions or a foreign country but live in a state that does not recognize their marriage will still be able to file federal taxes jointly.
The law does not extend to same-sex couples who are in registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or other formal relationships recognized under state laws.
The Treasury Department said the ruling would apply for all federal tax purposes, including income, gift and estate taxes, and all federal tax provisions in which marriage is a factor, including filing status, dependency exemptions, employee benefits and individual retirement accounts.
Individuals who were in same-sex marriages also now have the option of filing amended tax returns for the last three years to reflect their married status.
Maybe they’ll get the “marriage penalty” too.