Fun with gay taxes

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The funny little mixed mail bag that is the same-sex couple’s tax return today.

All the same-sex married folk in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Conneticut, the District of Columbia are sending in one state form and two federal forms today.  Folks in New York and Maryland are also recognized at the state level, wherever they got hitched, so them, too.

Here in the Golden State, we got 18,000 in-state recognized same-sex married folk (those that rushed up the gang plank between June 16 and November 5, 2008, before it got yanked up), plus Registered Domestic Partners, who, as of 2007, were granted the right to file state taxes jointly.

Add to this anyone else same-sex coupled who got legally married anywhere else BEFORE NOVEMBER 5, 2008.  When the gang plank got yanked up, it left you on the dock, too. Sorry.  Pre-election day 2008 recognitions do include happy unions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and South Africa (except I don’t know when each of those countries legally recognized our partnerships; some could well have been after November 5, 2008 in which case yer SOL).

Nepal and Portugal, thank you, but your recognitions will be too late for CA state residents. The rest of you-all’s, if you’re now in-state residents, you get to file one state form, too.  Yay!

Confused? Move to Nevada! Or get yourself a nice, queer, tax preparer. We did.

I haven’t counted up all the gay coupled folk in every state of the union that has no partner recognition, some kind of state-level “Defense” of (Heterosexual) Marriage Act,  otherwise known as hell NO we aren’t recognizing you people, no way, no how! Even if some reasonable-thinking person in another state did!

All of us in every state of the union, thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996?  Two federal forms!  (Here’s your ever-updated Relationship Recognition map, from NGLTF. Current iteration: March 17, 2010!) The patchwork quilt of piecemeal equality.

If you’re inspired to follow up on how much all this fun costs us, check out the piece that ran in The New York Times last October: The High Price of Being a Gay Couple.

9 Responses to Fun with gay taxes

  1. mindbodymama April 15, 2010 at #

    I got myself a nice straight tax preparer. But she has a gay brother. And every year she works herself into a lather about the injustice of it all as she works her magic on our forms. It’s very sweet watching the steam come out of her ears. It’s a very passionate expression of alliance.

    The last two years, the faux-Fed return that our preparer has to fill out in order to create our actual Mass-married-filing-jointly return (with me here?) has been accidentally submitted to the Feds! Last year they actually accepted it, and we had to call the IRS and compel them to reject it. That was a fun conversation: “Hello, I’m calling to inform you that you are legally obligated to discriminate against me and my wife.”

  2. Chris April 15, 2010 at #

    Happy Tax Day. My tax preparer is straight and only does my taxes since I own my own business. My wife does her own online in about an hour. Ironically, the “not married” situation actually helps us. Since our income is counted separately we are both in really low tax brackets and either end up owing no tax (me) or getting an awesome return (her). If we were filing jointly I think it would cut our return by at least half, if we got a return at all.

    So, I’d like to personally thank all the people who voted against marriage. Without your bigotry, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy your tax money flowing directly into our happy lesbian pockets :o)

    [Still, I’d gladly trade the cash for some state-sanctioned protections. Just FYI.]

  3. Weezus April 16, 2010 at #

    Three envelopes. Check.
    Queer tax preparer. Check.

    And now I’ve come around to calling my girlfriend/partner/spouse/co-parent “wife.” A long long trajectory but definitely related to the steps forward, and backward.

    p.s. Great handwriting!

  4. Shane April 16, 2010 at #

    While I completely agree that the inequality is magnified under the tax laws of each state and our lovely Infernal Revenue Service at the federal level, for some of us it works out to be a benefit! Case in point: My own dear partner and I reside in Michigan, one of those “hell NO” states. We are co owners of our home, and everything else for the past 14 years of our lives for that matter, and there happens to be a BIG difference in our two incomes. For us, not being able to file joint taxes is a good thing!

    Why you ask, because my income places me too high in the food chain to get many tax breaks that my dear partner does qualify for. On Federal taxes I make enough money to make it worth itemizing my deductions and allowing me to also deduct the mortgage interest on our home. Cha-Ching for me in federal returns. At the state level, I make FAR TOO much to get tax breaks for our homestead, energy efficient home improvements, and a few select other items that my dear partner DOES qualify for. CHA-CHING for her at the state tax level.

    What it all means … each year I fill out a joint form for both state and federal in addition to our individual forms just to compare. This year, the federal tax man is loosing out on almost $2000 because of refusing to recognize my partnership and require us to file jointly. At the state level, it is a mere $1500 they wold be allowed to keep from our combined returns had we been allowed to file jointly in those. This is the ONE time a year I revel in their “HELL NO” stance and happily take the money right out of their pockets as a sort of reparation for my inequality!

  5. theredbaron April 16, 2010 at #

    Ah, the annual exercise of “creative” accounting! Fire up the Turbo Tax and fiddle away to maximize the deductions — gee, since we have merged finances one can’t really tell who made the charitable contribution, can one? I, too, look at how much our federal tax would have been if we were filing as married and it’s always more than we owe as combined singles.

    I have devoted probably way too much time pondering if the IRS computers would ever flag our return if we filed as married. When my wife wanted to change her last name to mine she showed up at the Soc. Sec. office with our marriage certificate and they didn’t question anything, just updated her records (which I suspect was a lucky break, being that the feds aren’t supposed to recognize our marriage). But does the IRS pull more than SSN, Name and Address from the SSA database? Based on mindbodymama’s experience I don’t think they are tracking the sex of the taxpayer. It may only be discovered if our return was audited. I’m ever so tempted…what would the penalty be? “I’m sorry, you should’ve filed separately. You’ve overpaid your taxes and now we owe you a refund plus interest.”? It might set a nice precident.

  6. rev2bebt April 18, 2010 at #

    Yes, we have the joy of filing separately at the federal level and “married filing separately” at the (MA) state level. It hurts our heads, let me just tell you – add in the arrival of our little dependent this year, and the head-hurting comes close to an explosion.

    It’s an interesting point that theredbaron makes, however. We both changed our names, and the SSA didn’t quibble in the slightest – our new cards arrived about two weeks later. It was the passport office that quibbled, and asked for the probate court official-name-change documents that we never bothered with. So we file our taxes under our married name, but travel overseas under our maiden names – are we therefore different people to the federal government? One has to wonder how such disparities are going to play in the long term.

  7. kclembeas April 19, 2010 at #

    Hi LD, we moved to NY this last year, and are one of the 18,000 CA marrieds. NY doesn’t allow us to file joint married, though our marriage is recognized in other ways by the state.

    Because we’re essentially a one-income family, DOMA cost us about $3K this year…less than it did last year, but it still hurts. We also have a creative accountant in CA who models out a couple of options for us each year. This year, it was to our benefit for our income-earner to claim the other as a dependent…

    • Lesbian Dad April 19, 2010 at #

      Hi back kclembeas, and welcome! I’m totally surprised that NY doesn’t allow a joint filing at the state level! What’s the point of recognizing unions from out of state if you don’t, you know, recognize unions from out of state? I know that’s a simplistic take on it, but. Wow, though. I assumed recognition was full, and inclusive of this. As many of you-alls have shared, though, it’s a maze, and depending on each person’s financial situation, not always advantageous. The point, of course, is to have the OPTION of choosing how to file. Which of course most of us do not have at the state level, and none of us have at the federal.

      UCLA’s Williams Institute is a treasure trove of studies of the economic impact of marriage inequality, both to couples and (oddly) to the state. This page contains all their studies of the fiscal impacts on NJ, MA, ME, DC, VT, IA, OR, CA and federally. This recent study is a great 2-page overview:

      Tax Implications for Same-Sex Couples
      By Naomi Goldberg and M. V. Lee Badgett
      April 2009

      This fact sheet outlines some of the ways in which same-sex couples are treated inequality by the federal government. Same-sex couples pay more in taxes and receive fewer benefits than do married different-sex couples. Topics discussed include: taxation of health insurance benefits, lack of protection from estate taxes, no options in filing income taxes, the lack of social security survivor or spousal benefits, and the lack of visibility in the census.

  8. kclembeas April 22, 2010 at #

    LD, that was basically our reaction too! It’s enough that we’re considering a move to Connecticut (though my wife shudders a bit when it comes up).

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