News (USA)

Tax Day poses unique challenges for many married, same-sex couples

Rev. Brian K. Wilbert, right, and Yorki Encalada, hold their marriage certificate and tax forms at the Christ Episcopal Church in Oberlin, Ohio. Tony Dejak, AP

WASHINGTON — A necessary burden for most Americans, Tax Day is an accounting nightmare for thousands of gay and lesbian couples as they wrestle with the uneven legal status of same-sex marriage in the United States.

They live in a country that recognizes their marriages, but some reside in the 13 states that do not, an issue that will be argued before the Supreme Court later this month.

At tax time, and Wednesday is the filing deadline, it gets complicated because most state income tax returns use information from a taxpayer’s federal return.

Straight couples simply copy numbers from one form to another. But that doesn’t work for same-sex couples reporting combined incomes, deductions and exemptions on their federal tax returns. These couples must untangle their finances on their state returns, where they are still considered single.

“We’re adults, we’re contributing to the welfare of society and yet, here’s this one thing that just reaches up every year and kind of slaps us in the face,” said Brian Wilbert, an Episcopal priest who lives in Oberlin, a small college town in northern Ohio.

Wilbert married his husband, Yorki Encalada, in 2012, at a ceremony in upstate New York. He is filing a joint federal tax return for the second time this year. But Ohio, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, requires the couple to file their state tax returns as if they were single.

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“It may not be the most burning thing,” Wilbert said. “But as we think about equality and marriage equality, this is an important thing because it’s part of what couples do.”

The number of states that recognize same-sex marriages has grown to 37, plus the District of Columbia, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

After the ruling, the IRS announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes, even if couples lived in states that did not.

The Supreme Court is scheduled hear arguments in another same-sex marriage case April 28. Advocates hope the court will compel the remaining states to recognize gay and lesbian marriages.

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