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Any tax code that talks of marriage will apply to all married couples, wherever wed. The Treasury Department and IRS yesterday proposed rules that will put in practice the Supreme Court's June decision recognizing same-sex marriage.
The proposed regulations would also interpret the terms "husband' and 'wife' to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses, a Treasury Department statement explains. These regulations implement the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and extend a revenue ruling from 2013.
The new rules are really just an extension of a 2013 decision which recognized same-sex marriage for tax purposes, but allowed states to limit recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. The proposed regulations announced yesterday reflect the current recognition for same-sex marriage in all 50 states and eliminate any distinctions.
Note, however, that the instructions are explicit. This does not apply to civil unions, domestic partnerships, or anything else that is kind of like marriage but not quite it. The reasoning for this is to protect people who have specifically avoided marriage but made some other commitment in order to preserve single filing status. Since the 2013 revenue ruling, legally married same-sex couples have been required to file taxes as married, whether filing jointly or separately, like all married couples.
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The rules go beyond mere filing status, however. The Treasury explained that the regulations will apply to any provision where marriage is a factor. That includes claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
If reading the above paragraph just made you sleepy and a little scared, fear not. First, that's a common response to tax talk. Second, get help. Speak to a tax attorney. They are out there because many feel as you perhaps do ... that taxes are a snooze.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.