A woman in Australia got a bill for thousands of dollars for 2016 taxes because the government decided to retroactively recognize her marriage to another woman.
The Tasmanian woman, who has not be identified in the media, married a woman in another country in 2016, before marriage equality was recognized in Australia.
That year, she received the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), a refundable tax credit for low-income families with children. She did not declare her wife’s income because her wife wasn’t living in Australia, they do not share finances, and their marriage was not legally recognized.
In other words, she filed her taxes correctly in 2016.
When Australia legalized marriage equality several weeks ago, the woman called the government office in charge of the FTB to declare her marriage, because there are significant penalties for not declaring changes in one’s family situation.
This week, she got an invoice $6600 AUS (about $5000 US) and a letter saying that she improperly received the FTB in 2016 and she would not be receiving it in the future.
“This woman has done nothing wrong and is being penalized because of the failure of the Federal Government to recognize her marriage when it occurred,” said Rodney Croome, a spokesperson for Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality.
Not only will it be difficult for someone who is effectively a single mother to pay the money back, it’s unfair that she did not get any of the benefits of marriage in 2016 and 2017 (it’s possible that her wife is living abroad because she couldn’t immigrate to Australia) but can’t receive even the tax benefits of being single. She is being given the worst of both worlds.