WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced Thursday that all legally-married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live, will be recognized for federal tax purposes.
Under the new rules, same-sex couples who are legally married will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income, estate and gift taxes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple resides in a state or jurisdiction that recognizes their marriage.
Lew said the regulations also make clear that legally married same-sex couples will be able to move freely throughout the country and their federal tax filing status will not change.
The rules will cover all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor including the taxpayer’s filing status, personal and dependent exemptions and standard deductions, and will apply to any same-sex marriage legally entered into in any state where such a marriage is recognized.
It will also cover such marriages recognized by U.S. territories, foreign nations and the District of Columbia.
The government said that the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim was generally three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever was later. As a result, the government said that refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The policy change comes in response to the recent Supreme Court decision, which held Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, as it prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples.
The ruling came in a case filed by Edie Windsor, a resident of New York, who was forced to pay federal estate taxes after the death of Thea Spyer, her lesbian spouse.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, lawfully married same-sex couples were forced to declare themselves “unmarried” on their federal income tax returns, and transfers of property, gifts and inheritances between same-sex spouses were taxed, unlike those between opposite-sex spouses – as was the case in Windsor’s challenge to DOMA.
“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”
Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.
Agencies are expected to continue to announce decisions on how benefits will flow to same-sex couples.