IRS Recognizes All Legal Same-Sex Marriages for Federal Tax Purposes

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By Alison Flores

Lead tax research analyst, The Tax Institute

Couples all around the United States have finality about how they will file federal tax returns due to guidance just released by the IRS. The IRS announced it would treat same sex couples as lawfully married for tax purposes if they got married in a state or foreign country that recognized same-sex marriages at the time of the marriage.

How does this clarify tax filing status?

Before the announcement, there was uncertainty about how couples who currently live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage would file their taxes. The announcement clarifies that any lawfully married same sex couple, regardless of where they live, should file their federal income tax return using a married filing status (in other words, either married filing jointly or married filing separately).

What should be done now to adjust for this change?

Some taxpayers will find that they owe more tax due to this change, while others may owe less. To avoid stress at tax time, same-sex married taxpayers may wish to update their federal income tax withholding information with their employers. Form W-4 should be updated any time there is a change in marital status.

How will this affect 2014 tax filing?

Same-sex married couples living in states that recognize their marriage will now face a much simpler tax filing process because they will be able to use the same filing status on their federal and state returns. However, same-sex married couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage may now need to wait for more guidance on how to file their state returns.  State filing could become more complex for these couples.

The IRS will allow same sex couples to amend previously filed federal tax returns (generally, 2010, 2011, and 2012) in order to claim to claim a refund. The IRS will not require couples to amend if they do not want to. Couples living in states that recognize same sex marriage may be able to determine if they would be due a federal refund by referring to the information used to file their state returns. Couples living in states that do not recognize same sex marriage may want to consult a tax preparer to determine if they qualify for a refund.

If you have any questions or would like to talk with a tax pro please find an office near you.

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