Same-sex married couples can file as "married" on their federal taxes no matter what state they live in, the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department clarified on Thursday.
This official announcement was prompted by the recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The ruling requires the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples as married for taxes and other federal benefits, reports The Huffington Post.
What changes does this bring for the 2013 tax year?
Federal Same-Sex Marriage Status
After the Supreme Court's ruling in June, there was some ambiguity about how federal law would treat legally married gay couples in states that do not recognize gay marriage.
The U.S. v. Windsor case struck down the portion of DOMA which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples as married. But it left intact the portion that allows each state to refuse to recognize legal gay marriages from other states.
Outside the courtroom, this means that states like Pennsylvania -- whose state attorneys have likened gay marriage to marrying a 12-year-old, according to The Associated Press -- can refuse to recognize legal gay marriages performed elsewhere.
The state cannot, however, control how the federal government treats same-sex married couples for tax purposes.
Clearing Up the Tax Situation
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew made the IRS' policy on gay marriage clear in his Thursday decision, stating that "same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes," reports Business Insider.
This means married gay couples will be able to file joint federal tax returns for the 2013 tax year, regardless of whether their state of residence recognizes their marriage. Joint returns for state taxes, however, will still be governed by state law.
Filing as a married couple will be a huge financial boon for most same-sex partners, not to mention freeing them from the complications of determining who's "head of the household" for tax purposes. While joining the ranks of the other joint return filers, same-sex married couples may also soon discover some of the tax detriments to filing jointly.
Despite these considerations, many supporters of equal rights see this ruling as a victory, allowing families access "to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them" under DOMA, reports HuffPo.