The Supreme Court has recently struck down state bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 US ___ (2015), after previously striking down the federal exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage-related laws in US v. Windsor, 570 US ___ (2013). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has now followed suit to recognize same-sex marriage for all federal tax purposes, including income, estate, gift, generation-skipping, and employment tax.
On October 23, proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register, which redefine the terms “husband” and “wife” under Section 7701(17). Both terms will now mean an individual lawfully married to another individual, and the term “husband and wife” will mean two individuals lawfully married to each other. These definitions would apply regardless of sex. Prop Reg § 301.7701-18(a). The IRS is accepting comments for a limited time.
However, the proposed regulations redefining marriage will not apply to domestic partnerships, civil unions or other relationships. Prop Reg § 301.7701-18(c). The couples’ choice to remain unmarried is respected by the IRS as deliberate, for example, for purposes of preserving eligibility for government benefits or avoiding the tax marriage penalty. Preamble to Prop Reg 10/21/2015. In addition, a marriage conducted in a foreign jurisdiction will be recognized for federal tax purposes only if the marriage would be recognized in at least one state, possession, or territory of the United States. Preamble to Prop Reg 10/21/2015.