The last few years have been absolutely monumental for the rights of same-sex couples. In 2011, New York lawmakers approved same-sex unions and a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling provided federal recognition for married couples. As a result of the high court's ruling, married same-sex couples will be able to file joint federal tax returns for the first time this year.
Changes in tax rules may prove to be critical for married same-sex couples. For example, two New York women who were married in 2011 will be filing jointly for the 2013 tax year, which provide them with a significant refund that wouldn’t be available to them if their marriage was not recognized by the federal government. This is definitely an important and developing aspect of LGBT family law.
Not only do married same-sex couples have the opportunity to file income taxes jointly this year, they may also have the chance to amend previous federal returns. This option, of course, is only available for years in which the couple was legally married. In some cases, it may be financially advantageous to amend tax forms to reflect married status, since an additional refund may be granted.
One other thing for same-sex couples to consider is the effect that divorce could have on federal tax filings. With the ability to marry comes the legal protection to file for same-sex divorce. Couples may want to note that the year during which they divorce will impact how they file tax returns. For example, a couple who divorces in 2014 would be able to file jointly as a married couple for the 2013 tax year.
Tax law is immensely complicated without even making considerations for additional family law concerns. Keeping this in mind, New York families headed by same-sex couples can benefit from understanding the broad range of implications that accompany a change in marital status.
Source: The New York Times, "For Same-Sex Marrieds, a Tax Season to Look Back," Tara Siegel Bernard, Feb. 24, 2014