Guest article by Andrew Mark, CPA
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court overturned parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. Lost in the ruling was that it was really a tax case. The ruling means that same-sex couples, who are legally married, under the laws of either their state or a foreign country, are afforded many federal tax benefits, but also drawbacks, which were previously only allowed to opposite-sex couples.
Same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal income, estate and gift tax purposes. Going forward, same-sex couples will be required to file their federal tax return using the married filing jointly or married filing separately status; they will no longer be able to file as single. They also have an option to amend previous year returns. This federal filing status is required regardless of whether or not the couple lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, states are still allowed to do what they want, and since the laws regarding marriage vary widely from state to state, many unanswered questions remain. Arizona for example has stated it will not allow joint returns to be filed. This means same sex couples in Arizona will have to file a married federal return and a single or head of household state return. California on the other hand will require joint filings.
Andrew Mark is a Certified Public Accountant in private practice and a board member of the National Association of Tax Professionals Arizona Chapter. Visit his website at http://ajmarkcpa.com/ to learn more about his income tax preparation services.