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January 25, 2014

Gay marriage and taxes

Legally married same-sex couples may face difficulties at tax time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legally married same-sex couples may be in for a couple of surprises come tax time.

Filing federal taxes could become more complicated for gay married couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriage.

When the U.S. Supreme Court threw out provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman," it set the stage for equal treatment of married couples under federal law, regardless of the makeup of the marriage.

And that applies to federal taxes, even if the couple is living in a state that does not recognize gay marriage, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service ruled.

"This ruling assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said last summer when the ruling was issued to take into account the Supreme Court's decision.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia legally recognize same-sex marriage. Last month, a federal judge overturned Utah's ban on gay marriage, and just last week a federal judge struck down Oklahoma's ban.

"Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes," the IRS said. "The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit."

However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.

Usually, legally married same-sex couples now will be required to choose the filing status married filing jointly or married filing separately on their federal tax returns. If children are involved and the couple lives separately, head of household might be chosen by the spouse providing more than half the support for the child, similar to opposite sex couples.

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