Personal finance expert Suze Orman took a break from her news desk at CNBC on Monday to speak candidly about her experience as a gay taxpayer in America.
“There is such discrimination [in our tax code], from insurance benefits to Social Security benefits … anything you can possibly think of,” Orman said during a conference call coordinated by the Respect for Marriage Coalition.
“It’s a travesty to say the least.”
The crux of the gay marriage tax debate is this: So long as states continue to legally recognise same-sex marriage while the federal government does not, couples essentially have double the amount of work on their plate when filing their tax returns each year.
For instance, a same-sex married couple living in New York state would need three tax returns –– one joint state return and two separate federal tax forms for each of them.
“We can’t just go down to H&R Block and have them plug in our numbers,” family law attorney David Pisarra, who is also in a same-sex relationship, told Business Insider. “You’re probably going to at least double, if not triple, the accountant’s time, because you’re adding one state return and two federal.”
Further complicating matters, same-sex couples aren’t able to access some tax breaks that traditional married couples can. A gay stay-at-home parent, for example, can’t currently enroll in a Roth IRA or traditional IRA because they can’t claim their spouse’s source of income.
And if that spouse chooses to enroll in his or her partner’s health insurance plan, they would have to pay taxes on those benefits. Similarily, if one spouse dies, the other would have to pay federal estate taxes on assets left in their name.
Orman herself has been married to her long-time partner, Kathy Travis (KT), for three years. They wed, not in the U.S., but in South Africa, which recognises same-sex marriage at the national level.
“Overturning DOMA [The defence of Marriage Act] is essential for us to have true equality,” she said. “Financial discrimination just really adds insult to injury.”
As for the fate of DOMA, the Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion this summer.
For same-sex couples looking for resources on filing their taxes, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) has a host of great resources. You can access their guide on Navigating Income Taxes for Married Same-Sex Couples publication here.
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