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State Tax Filing Guide for Same-Sex Couples

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 29, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. This was great news for same-sex couples in states that previously prohibited gay marriage, or those that were already married but living in a state that refused to recognized same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. This means that no state can prohibit same-sex marriage (although some keep trying), and every state must recognize legal marriages no matter where the ceremony was performed.

And while the federal government has given tax breaks to married gay couples for a few years now, all states must follow suit, and some states (mostly those that banned gay marriage previously) are playing catch-up.

Moving Forward

The new rules should make filing your state taxes easier. Most state tax departments model their filing documents on federal filings. So same-sex married couples can now file joint states tax returns. You just have to make sure the information is accurate and consistent for both you and your spouse.

This means using the current name, if there was a name change, and making sure to list any new assets or benefits to which you are now entitled. And be aware that while there are tax breaks available for married couples, there can also be a marriage tax penalty that could apply.

Looking Back

Not only can same-sex couples file future state tax returns jointly, but they may be able to amend prior-year tax returns if they had to file as single state taxpayers before the Supreme Court's ruling. (This is also true for federal tax returns.) This can mean getting a bigger refund from previous years.

State tax laws can vary, and you may need to consult your state's tax code to verify the amendment process for prior-year tax returns. And some states offer taxpayer assistance programs that can answer basic tax law questions.

If you have additional questions about your filing, or just got married this year, you may want to talk to an experienced tax attorney near you.

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