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Federal Tax Return Guidelines for Same-Sex Married Couples

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department have ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. Starting with their 2013 tax returns, same-sex married couples generally must use “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.


Who is eligible to file federal taxes under married status?

  • Couples who are legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriages are eligible to use the married status when filing federal tax returns.
  • Married couples do not need to live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. Federal tax filing status will not change if couples move throughout the country.
  • Registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law are not eligible to use the married status when filing federal tax returns.

Amended Returns:

Can same-sex married couples file amended returns?

  • Yes, individuals in same-sex marriages may file amended tax returns.
  • Individuals are not required to file amended tax returns and should talk to their tax preparer to determine if they should do so.
  • 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. Generally, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012.
  • 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.

The new IRS rulings are a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor also known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). See my previous posts on the Tax Implications of DOMA  and DOMA and Income Tax Refunds for more information.

Additional Information:

All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes, U.S. Treasury Department Press Release