“DOMA”Tax Dilemmas for Same-sex Married Couples

Kimberly Watson, Editor in Chief
September 05, 2012 /

Taxes when related to same-sex marriage are more intricate than those applicable to heterosexual couples.  This is due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, prohibiting same-sex marriage being acknowledged at a federal level. However, rules when compared to taxes at a state level are significantly different. These differences are regarded as being the cause of confusion when filing same-sex marriage taxes.

The United States Census Bureau states that there are more than 130,000 couples in America who are gay or lesbian. This figure is reportedly rising as more states legalize same-sex marriage, particularly relative to New York.

The problem is being exacerbated in 2012 with many same-sex marriage couples facing a literal dilemma regarding their taxes, while the focus is on tax cuts in the election cycle.

Even for those couples married by the standards of a state, they are unable to file returns for their federal income taxes jointly, due to the influence of “DOMA”. Should taxes be filed under the auspices of the head of a household and not as a single person, a standard deduction in 2012 of $8,700 is available as compared to $5,950 with a single status. Improved rates for taxes are also given.

As a qualifying criterion, it is required that over fifty percent of the household expenses must be supported by the tax payer, with a “qualifying person” residing with them, such as a child. Neither would qualify should a lesbian couple be composed of a biological parent of a child and the other, a breadwinner, but not related to the child.

The same difference arises when parents are claiming for dependents. Children are listed on a joint return for taxes made by a heterosexual couple and benefits are accrued. There are two problems related to this for same-sex marriage couples. They are not permitted to file a joint return for taxes and they may not be legal parents of their children, although some states do permit same-sex marriage adoptions.

When related to taxes this determines that only biological or legally adoptive parents would be allowed to obtain exemptions for their children. These would include child credits and other related benefits and education allowances. In the case of both parents being legal parents, they have more options; with if possible, influence being exerted on the higher earner to claim for the dependent.

In general, benefits related to health insurance are not subjected to taxes, with health insurance deducted from the employees pay check. However, same-sex-marriage couples could expect to pay higher taxes that are health related. The benefits for a partner in a gay or lesbian couple are taxed as a wage income at a federal level.


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