Posted by: Taxlitigator | March 8, 2014

IRS Releases YouTube Video and Updates FAQs re Tax Information for Same-Sex Couples

The Internal Revenue Service recently released a new YouTube video designed to provide useful tax tips to married same-sex couples[1]. The video is less than two minutes long, is available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language and can be accessed via IRS.gov. More than 150 topics covered in various online IRS instructional videos ranging from tips for victims of identity theft to claiming the new simplified home office deduction have been viewed more than seven million times.

Revenue Ruling 2013-17. On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States[2] that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)[3], denying legally married same-sex couples numerous federal protections and responsibilities of marriage, is unconstitutional. Thereafter, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17 ruling that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, are now treated as married for federal tax purposes.[4] Under the Revenue Ruling 2013-17, same-sex couples are treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. As such, the ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, claiming the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country is covered by Revenue Ruling 2013-17. However, Revenue Ruling 2013-17 does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law. Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status.

Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the applicable statute of limitations. Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.

Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.

Updated FAQs. The IRS has also updated its list of frequently asked questions providing tax-related information to individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married (same-sex spouses).[5] Selected FAQs include:

Q1. When are individuals of the same sex lawfully married for federal tax purposes? A1. For federal tax purposes, the IRS looks to state or foreign law to determine whether individuals are married. The IRS has a general rule recognizing a marriage of same-sex spouses that was validly entered into in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex even if the married couple resides in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.

Q2. Can same-sex spouses file federal tax returns using a married filing jointly or married filing separately status? A2. Yes. For tax year 2013 and going forward, same-sex spouses generally must file using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax year 2012 and all prior years, same-sex spouses who file an original tax return on or after Sept. 16, 2013 (the effective date of Rev. Rul. 2013-17), generally must file using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax year 2012, same-sex spouses who filed their tax return before Sept. 16, 2013, may choose (but are not required) to amend their federal tax returns to file using married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax years 2011 and earlier, same-sex spouses who filed their tax returns timely may choose (but are not required) to amend their federal tax returns to file using married filing separately or jointly filing status provided the period of limitations for amending the return has not expired. A taxpayer generally may file a claim for refund for three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. For information on filing an amended return, go to Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc308.html.

Q3. Can a taxpayer and his or her same-sex spouse file a joint return if they were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages but they live in a state that does not recognize their marriage?  A3. Yes. For federal tax purposes, the IRS has a general rule recognizing a marriage of same-sex individuals that was validly entered into in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex even if the married couple resides in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. The rules for using a married filing jointly or married filing separately status described in Q&A #2 apply to these married individuals.

Q4. Can a taxpayer’s same-sex spouse be a dependent of the taxpayer? A4. No. A taxpayer’s spouse cannot be a dependent of the taxpayer.

Q5. Can a same-sex spouse file using head of household filing status? A5. A taxpayer who is married cannot file using head of household filing status. However, a married taxpayer may be considered unmarried and may use the head-of-household filing status if the taxpayer lives apart from his or her spouse for the last 6 months of the taxable year and provides more than half the cost of maintaining a household that is the principal place of abode of the taxpayer’s dependent child for more than half of the year. See Publication 501 for more details.

Q6. If same-sex spouses (who file using the married filing separately status) have a child, which parent may claim the child as a dependent? A6. If a child is a qualifying child under section 152(c) of both parents who are spouses (who file using the married filing separate status), either parent, but not both, may claim a dependency deduction for the qualifying child. If both parents claim a dependency deduction for the child on their income tax returns, the IRS will treat the child as the qualifying child of the parent with whom the child resides for the longer period of time during the taxable year. If the child resides with each parent for the same amount of time during the taxable year, the IRS will treat the child as the qualifying child of the parent with the higher adjusted gross income.

Q7. Can a taxpayer who is married to a person of the same sex claim the standard deduction if the taxpayer’s spouse itemized deductions?  A7. No. If a taxpayer’s spouse itemized his or her deductions, the taxpayer cannot claim the standard deduction (section 63(c)(6)(A)).

Q8. If a taxpayer adopts the child of his or her same-sex spouse as a second parent or co-parent, may the taxpayer (“adopting parent”) claim the adoption credit for the qualifying adoption expenses he or she pays or incurs to adopt the child? A8. No. The adopting parent may not claim an adoption credit. A taxpayer may not claim an adoption credit for expenses incurred in adopting the child of the taxpayer’s spouse (section 23).

Q9. Do provisions of the federal tax law such as section 66 (treatment of community income) and section 469(i)(5) ($25,000 offset for passive activity losses for rental real estate activities) apply to same-sex spouses?  A9. Yes. Like other provisions of the federal tax law that apply to married taxpayers, section 66 and section 469(i)(5) apply to same-sex spouses because same-sex spouses are married for all federal tax purposes.

Q10. If an employer provided health coverage for an employee’s same-sex spouse and included the value of that coverage in the employee’s gross income, can the employee file an amended Form 1040 reflecting the employee’s status as a married individual to recover federal income tax paid on the value of the health coverage of the employee’s spouse? A10. Yes, for all years for which the period of limitations for filing a claim for refund is open. Generally, a taxpayer may file a claim for refund for three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. If an employer provided health coverage for an employee’s same-sex spouse, the employee may claim a refund of income taxes paid on the value of coverage that would have been excluded from income had the employee’s spouse been recognized as the employee’s legal spouse for tax purposes. This claim for a refund generally would be made through the filing of an amended Form 1040. For information on filing an amended return, go to Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc308.html. For a discussion regarding refunds of Social Security and Medicare taxes, see Q&A #12 and Q&A #13.

Example. Employer sponsors a group health plan covering eligible employees and their dependents and spouses (including same-sex spouses). Fifty percent of the cost of health coverage elected by employees is paid by Employer. Employee A was married to same-sex Spouse B at all times during 2012. Employee A elected coverage for Spouse B through Employer’s group health plan beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The value of the employer-funded portion of Spouse B’s health coverage was $250 per month.

The amount in Box 1, “Wages, tips, other compensation,” of the 2012 Form W-2 provided by Employer to Employee A included $3,000 ($250 per month x 12 months) of income reflecting the value of employer-funded health coverage provided to Spouse B.  Employee A filed Form 1040 for the 2012 taxable year reflecting the Box 1 amount reported on Form W-2.

Employee A may file an amended Form 1040 for the 2012 taxable year excluding the value of Spouse B’s employer-funded health coverage ($3,000) from gross income.

To review the entire list of 23 FAQs, see http://www.irs.gov/uac/Answers-to-Frequently-Asked-Questions-for-Same-Sex-Married-Couples


[2] United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 2 (2013).

[3] The “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA, was passed in 1996 by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The part that was held unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court is “Section 3,” which prevented the federal government from recognizing any marriages between gay or lesbian couples for the purpose of federal laws or programs, even if those couples are considered legally married by their home state. However, individual states do not legally have to acknowledge the relationships of same-sex couples who were married in another state. Only Section Three dealing with federal recognition was ruled unconstitutional.


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