Tara R. Pfeifer, WLP Staff Attorney
The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department announced yesterday that the federal government will recognize the marriages of legally married same-sex couples for all federal tax purposes, regardless of where those couples reside.
This landmark ruling comes on the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor in which the Court overturned a key provision (Section 3) of the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 defined the terms “marriage” and “spouse” for purposes of federal law as pertaining only to legal unions between one man and one woman. Yesterday’s announcement clarifies that when it comes to evaluating the federal tax status of same-sex married couples, it is the “place of celebration” – where the wedding took place – that controls, not the state where the couple resides. Thus, same-sex couples that marry in one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal, such as New York or Massachusetts, but reside in Pennsylvania will be recognized as married by the IRS and Treasury Department for federal tax purposes.
Pursuant to this new policy, all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, IRA contributions, child tax credits, gift and estate taxes, etc. will apply to all legally married same-sex couples. The Treasury Department further announced that, under the policy, refunds can be filed for the prior three years’ returns (2010, 2011, and 2012). According to Jacob Lew, Treasury Secretary, this interpretation “provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve.”
While there is still significant progress to be made to achieve marriage equality rights in Pennsylvania and most other states, yesterday’s ruling is a tremendous victory and step forward for married same-sex couples.