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Same-sex married couples now find federal tax filing easier, but likely still face hassles with most state tax returns

That adage that the more things change the more they stay the same certainly applies to taxes.

It seems that every time lawmakers at any level try to make taxpayer lives easier, some unexpected, unintended consequences pop up.

This week gay and lesbian married couples are finding that out, although to be fair, most are not that surprised.

Key day for same-sex filers: Monday, Sept. 16, marked the day that same-sex married couples began filing their federal tax returns the same way as heterosexual married couples. Many had received filing extensions this tax season in anticipation of the change, which comes thanks to the Supreme Court invalidation of the Defense of Marriage Act definition of marriage.

Same-sex marriage US Constitution

All married couples, regardless of sexual preference, now must choose either married filing jointly, married filing separately or surviving spouse as their filing status.

Most same-sex marrieds will do what the hubby and I and most other wedded couples do: file a joint return. That's a big relief for gay and lesbian husbands and wives who live in states that recognize their marriages and also collect state income taxes.

In past tax years, these couples created a fake federal tax return to use as the basis for their state returns, which they were able to file jointly. Now that federal form work won't be wasted.

Conflicting federal, state approaches: But here's the complication that I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

Although the Internal Revenue Service says for its purposes it doesn't matter where the same-sex married couples live, it does matter in those states that collect income taxes but don't recognize these marriages for tax or other purposes.

Same-sex couples who live in these tax jurisdictions are awaiting word on how their states will deal with their returns.

Louisiana and Wisconsin have made it official that they won't accept jointly filed state tax returns from same-sex married couples. So couples there must still do added work to split up their joint federal 1040 into two state tax filings.

Most tax observers believe that will be the same situation in states with income taxes and prohibitions against same-sex marriages.

But when it comes to taxes, folks want to know for sure.

So, as my Bankrate story on same-sex marriages and state taxes (which is also this week's Weekly Tax Tip) notes, these couples (and their tax pros) are waiting on formal guidance from their state officials.

In a couple of states -- New Mexico and Ohio -- court cases could have an effect on when guidance is issued.

But the bottom line is that while state tax departments ponder how, if at all, the IRS filing decision will affect their operations, we wait for official same-sex state filing word.

You also might find these marriage related posts of interest:


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