It is tax season, and that means much scratching of heads around the nation. Luckily, we all have software that makes this easier, and will e-file for us, for a speedy boost to the old bank account in just a few weeks.
Well, this is easy. You’re single, you file single or head of household; and if you’re married, you’ll file jointly (usually) or separate. Most of the time, you won’t even need a tax attorney to help you, TurboTax or TaxCut will both do the job admirably.
Ah, but not so fast, young Sir. That is true for category A citizens – singles and married opposite-sex couples. For category B citizens – by which we mean married same-sex couples – it gets a tad more complicated.
First off, because of DOMA, the unfortunately-named “Defense of Marriage Act”, federal filing has to be as “Single”.
Filing as “Single” while actually married can have other consequences, including but not limited to fees, interest, penalties in the tax realm, and of course a whole raft of not-tax-related issues when it comes to defending ones status as a married couple. “But you filed “Single” – case closed!”.
To avoid these issues, it is prudent to attach either a cover letter or a note on the form itself that points out that the “Single” status is for tax purposes only due to federal law – DOMA – and that the filer does consider him- or herself married, thankyouverymuchindeed. See also what GLAD has to say at http://www.glad.org/rights/taxes_for_married_couples.html.
That throws e-filing right out the window. Speedy refunds? Not for you, category B citizen! Cue diabolical laughter.
And how about filing in one’s state? Well, that gets very complicated, and you’ll basically want a tax attorney to advise you. Some states won’t recognize your marriage. Others do, but bind to federal – you need to file “Single”. Yet others may not bind to federal for filing status, but do need you to do some heavy math to come up with the “Joint” figures for state purposes by pulling data from both federal “Single” filings.
In Massachusetts, it is the latter. Married couples file as “Married” in Massachusetts, sex notwithstanding. Same-sex couples will have to take special care to arrive at the correct figures, however, as they have to file “Single” with the federal government.
Needless to say, neither of the two big tax software companies offer software that makes this any easier.
Massachusetts has documented the whole sorry mess here and in a series of links here.
Before the Feds move, many more states will have to get on the bandwagon, and right now, Massachusetts holds the flag of same-sex freedom high alone. This situation will continue for decades. Challenging this in federal court now would actually be a very bad mistake, as that suit would be lost and would thus set precedent, making it harder to overturn DOMA later on.
What can you do, if you are affected, have friends that are affected, or just plain care?
Speak out. This is just one example of how “separate but equal” never is equal, but only separate. Let people know about the big and small indignities that same-sex couples have to go through.
Contact the makers of TurboTax and TaxCut, and politely request a feature for the 2007 version that takes these special calculations into account and prepares taxes for same-sex couples, both Federal and State, with an option to paper-file Federal with a prepared same-sex marriage cover sheet, or, should such a thing be possible, E-File federal with a statement regarding same-sex marriage and filing status due to DOMA.