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Treasury, IRS seek to clarify same-sex marriage tax rules

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The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued late Wednesday proposed rules that provide additional clarity on same-sex couples’ tax treatment in light of two Supreme Court decisions.

The proposed regs allow a marriage of two individuals, whether of the same sex or the opposite sex, to be recognized for federal tax purposes if that marriage is recognized by any state, possession or territory of the United States. 

The rules would also interpret the terms “husband” and “wife” to include same-sex spouses.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in releasing the plan that the proposed regulations “confirm that terms in the federal tax code relating to marriage should be interpreted to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses, ensuring that all are treated equally under the law.”

Lew said the regs provide “additional clarity” on how the federal government will treat same-sex couples for tax purposes in light of the Supreme Court’s “historic decision” on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The guidance would also “clarify and strengthen” guidance provided in a 2013 IRS revenue ruling implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which said that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions that authorize same-sex marriage will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.  

The proposed regs update the rules to reflect that “same-sex couples can now marry in all states and that all states will recognize these marriages,” Treasury and IRS said, and will apply 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.

The proposed regulations would not treat domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar relationships not denominated as marriage under state law as marriage for federal tax purposes. 

Treasury notes that since publication of the 2013 revenue ruling, legally married couples generally must file their federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.


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