The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that same-sex
couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as
married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a
jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize samesex marriage.
“Today’s ruling 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,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also
assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country
knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes,
including income and gift and estate taxes. 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.
Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a
U.S. territory, or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not
apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships
recognized under state law.
Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using
either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.
Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or
amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.
Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a
refund claim is three years from the date the
return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result,
refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some taxpayers may have pecial circumstances (such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of
limitations open) that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their
employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and
excludable from income.
The Treasury and the IRS intend to issue streamlined procedures for employers who wish to file
refund claims for payroll taxes paid on previously-taxed health insurance and fringe benefits
provided to same-sex spouses. Treasury and IRS also intend to issue further guidance on
cafeteria plans and on how qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored arrangements
should treat same-sex spouses for periods before the effective date of this Revenue Ruling.