Federal tax benefits available for same-sex married couples in the US

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On 29th August 2013, 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 same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

A statement from the US Department of the Treasury clarified that the ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples in the US.

Secretary Jacob J. Lew said: “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.”

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.

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes.

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. More information regarding the federal tax benefits for legally married same-sex couples in the US is available from the US Department of the Treasury.

The Department will continue to release new guidance to ensure the implications of the DOMA changes are streamlined for their citizens. The Department has also issued answers to frequently asked questions on their website.

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