Married Same-Sex Couples Get New Tax Breaks

For the first time ever, married same-sex couples will be required to file federal income taxes as married, either jointly or separately, and will have the opportunity to amend their last three returns using a married filing status. For some unions, this could mean a nice refund.

After the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act last June, the IRS announced that it would recognise all legally married same-sex couples for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state they reside in recognises their marriage.

It’s a big victory for advocates of same-sex marriage, writes Tara Siegel Bernard at the New York Times, but it also raises new questions, like: When does it make sense to amend your returns?

Bernard spoke with Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a partner at New York accounting firm
Marcum. McDonagh says that, as with straight couples, amending returns makes sense if you and your partner qualify for a marriage bonus, earned when one partner stays home or makes significantly less than the other.

On the other hand, “higher-income couples with two working spouses making similar incomes are likely to face a marriage penalty” if the dual incomes push the couple into a higher tax bracket, she says.

To help answer questions about the new system, the Boston Globe reports that financial planners are offering so-called DOMA reviews to guide couples through their first married tax filing. TurboTax also rolled out a new online tool that helps couples determine whether they’re entitled to a bigger tax refund for previously filed returns.

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