Two months after the U.S. Supreme ruling that allowed same-sex married couples to receive federal benefits, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service ruled on Aug. 29 that same-sex couples who are legally married will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston, said this legislation is significant progress for marriage equality that will bring benefits to same-sex couples across the country, especially those in Massachusetts who want to move to another state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.
“The patchwork of marriage equality across the country is farming the mobility of same sex couples within the country … having federal tax equality will help those couples in being able to cross state lines and run equal lives,” she said.
The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26 Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The IRS ruling includes all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, according to an Aug. 29 press release.
“Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift estate taxes,” the release stated. “The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions … 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.”
Carly Burton, deputy director for MassEquality, said same-sex marriage recognition in the eyes of the federal government changes scenarios for couples must move to a different state.
“It is particularly good for same sex couples married living in a state where marriage isn’t recognized because they are married in the eye of the federal law,” she said. “…A couple married in Massachusetts who moves to Florida will still be married under the eyes of the federal government.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in an Aug. 29 press release that the ruling provides protection that all Americans, no matter their sexual orientations, deserve.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” he said. “This ruling also assured legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their deferral filing status will not change.”
Family Equality Council Executive Director Gabriel Blau said in an Aug. 29 press release that the ruling is a step toward equality.
“This is a significant win for the millions of our families who work hard, pay taxes and deserve to be recognized by the federal government,” he said. “Once again the [U.S. President Barack] Obama Administration has demonstrated that they value the lives and contributions of the 3 million LGBT parents in the U.S. raising 6 million children, and will no longer financially penalize them for who they are.”
Ruthstrom said she already knew people who would be impacted by the change.
“I already know people this will affect,” she said. “Someone from the bi[sexual] community just moved out of state to Pennsylvania, and she and her wife will be covered. It’s a wonderful development for the LGBT community.”
Despite the strides taken, Ruthtrom said there is still progress to be made.
“On marriage equality, I do think that there will continue to be states that will broaden their marriage laws, which is great, but I do think it will be state by state for a while,” she said. “Within a larger issue of LGBT rights, I think that passing an inclusive ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] is definitely high on the list [of priorities].”