Since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor invalidated a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples have been awaiting guidance from the IRS as to how that decision would be interpreted under the tax laws. Revenue Ruling 2013-17, applicable beginning September 16, 2013, offers some initial guidance.
The ruling provides that same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income, gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, the availability of personal and dependent exemptions and deductions, employee benefits, IRA contributions and tax credits, as well as the gift and estate tax marital deductions.
Any same-sex couple that was legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage, will be treated as married for purposes of the federal tax laws, regardless of whether the couple resides in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar relationships that are not denominated as a marriage under state law.
Married same-sex couples must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status. Taxpayers who wish to rely on the terms of the ruling for earlier periods may choose to do so, if the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not expired. State tax laws are not affected by the ruling, and same-sex couples may have to file their state tax returns as if they were not married, depending on the laws of the state in which they reside.