With marriage equality comes tax equality, sometimes.
In gay-marriage recognition states, “thanks to the Windsor decision, doing tax returns for same-sex married couples is much easier now,” said Joan Zawaski, an accountant in California who is also in a same-sex marriage. “Married is married, we just file joint returns just like other folks. But in non-recognition states, it’s back like the battle days.”
The Windsor decision refers to the Supreme Court striking down federal prohibition of gay marriage in The United States v. Windsor last summer.
States who haven’t legalized gay marriage are refusing to accept joint tax returns, regardless of whether their residents have marriage licenses from other states where that union is legal. So instead of filling out IRS forms, where gay marriage is accepted as a way to file taxes, and re-applying that same information for state taxes, some in the LGBTQ community have to fill out bunches of other forms. On some they write they’re married and on others, they have to identify themselves as single. Some states have even crafted totally new forms just for gay couples, writes The Atlantic. It’s a mess.
Virginia got “hostile” with their perspective gay marriage tax filers, mailing out a memo stating seven different times that the Commonwealth doesn’t recognize same-sex unions or agree with the federal government’s decision to accept their joint tax returns. Guys, we get it.
“There were no statutory provisions in the Virginia tax code for doing that,” said Marc Purintun, a tax attorney who lives in the state. He and his husband got married in California in 2008. “On the receiving end in Virginia of the memo from the tax department, it felt pretty hostile.”
Elsewhere in states like Colorado, Missouri, Oregon, and Utah who don’t recognize gay marriage, they will still accept same-sex joint taxes despite their constitutional amendments against gay unions. Over in Utah — Remember their gay marriage passing, then repeal and then stay until a judge reviews the original ruling. We’re still waiting on that by the way. — where same-sex marriage was legal for 17 days, those 1,300 couples were up in the air on how to file. Utah’s governor wouldn’t recognize their marriages but for tax purposes the state identifies those 1,300 as married. Break out the joint tax returns!
Some are blaming the IRS themselves for all this confusion because they’ve offered LGBTQ couples the option to go back and re-file previous returns for a bigger refund. But all tax preparers aren't on the same page.
“The IRS is telling them things like, sorry, the Windsor case is not retroactive. There’s been lots of miscommunication between taxpayers and IRS agents in the field,” said Pat Cain, a tax-law professor at Santa Clara University, who is also in a same-sex marriage.
Ultimately, this tax season will be more equal in some states, more complicated in others and if you’re in Viriginia, it will probably be an all out war. Prepare yourselves people.