There are currently more than 130,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. and that number is steadily rising as more states legalize same-sex marriage. The differences between state and federal laws mean that these couples may have a difficult time filing tax returns each year.
The Federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents same-sex couples from filing federal taxes as a married couple, and state tax law often present additional issues.
A same-sex couple in Massachusetts is allowed to file as a married couple but the problem arises because the state return uses the federal return to calculate state taxes. Currently, one suggested solution is to create a federal tax return as a married couple but do not file it. Then, use the calculations from that federal return for the Massachusetts return. Keep the return used to make calculations, as some states want to see the federal return, even though it was never filed with the IRS.
Another issue that the federal return presents is that of marital status. Since a same-sex couple cannot file a federal return with a married status, each partner must file as single, which has a lower personal deduction. If there are children involved, the head of household status must also be considered.
Married same-sex couples may face difficulties when filing federal and state taxes. Even if DOMA is struck down and the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, the federal tax laws may take some time to unravel.
Source: NBC News, “Same-sex married couples face tax land mines,” Amy Feldman, August 28, 2012.