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How to File Taxes as a Same-Sex Couple

A gay couple consulting with a tax expert.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

 

Credit Karma Tax, a personal finance site, polled around 150 users in March of this year to gauge their tax-savvy status, particularly in regards to how and what to file. The results showed a depth of ignorance that needs to be addressed in the queer community. Three out of four of those polled did not know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued official guidance for same-sex couples on filing their federal returns.

Slip-ups and mistakes usually happen in one of three areas:

Does the IRS acknowledge this as a marriage?

Currently, same-sex marriage is recognized in all 50 states. Domestic partnerships and civil unions, however, are still not marriages according to the federal government (so much for separate but equal, right?) Some states like California recognize them as such, so members of a registered domestic partnership could file their Californian state tax return as married, but not their federal.

Why file joint versus separately?

There’s a common misconception that filing jointly means paying more total in taxes, and this mistake is especially prevalent in LGBT couples. But in truth, whether you file separately or together, if you’re married, the IRS regards your income as joined. They only recommend filing separately from your spouse is if one partner has a dubious income and the other wishes to protect themselves from tax liability.

What if I make a mistake?

If a same-sex couple has gotten their filing status wrong in the past, as with a hetero couple, the IRS gives you three years to amend your returns. So it’s worth it to review and redo, especially when you have just learned something new.

Death and taxes are the only constants in this world. Do yourself a favor and make sure you get your taxes right, or it will cost you down the road.

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