July 06, 2004

Marriage and Taxes

by PG

Supporters of same-sex unions, ranging from P.J. O' Rourke to myself, have jokingly wondered why some straight people wouldn't want to subject homosexuals to the same lifestyle that we're expected to maintain: "get married, have children, and go to church," in O'Rourke's words, and "settle down, buy a home, raise children, (horror of horrors) pay the marriage tax penalty" in mine.

That last terror may not exist, however, at least not at the federal level.

According to last Thursday's Wall Street Journal:

[T]he Internal Revenue Service recently confirmed that same-sex couples can't file joint federal income-tax returns, citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which a senior IRS official says defined marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman." Thus, even if a state recognizes a union of two people of the same sex as a legal marriage, "that recognition has no effect for purposes of federal law." A taxpayer "in such a relationship may not claim the status of a married person on the federal income-tax return."
Despite people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate constantly reiterating that marriage is a state law matter, when it comes to federal income taxes, Congressional legislation trumps that of any state. As far as I know, DOMA was the first federal law (aside from immigration statutes) that attempted to set rules for marriage; presumably interracial couples had to file as married even if, pre-Loving, some states did not recognize their union as legally valid.

So even if every state in the union eventually permits same-sex marriages, DOMA would have to be invalidated by Congress or the federal courts in order for the IRS to get its hands on the extra tax revenue -- roughly half a billion dollars a year -- that the WSJ calculates would come from counting gay couples as married.

However, states with same-sex marriage and state income taxes are happily collecting.

In Massachusetts, though, same-sex spouses "will file as married persons, jointly or separately," for state income-tax purposes, the state Department of Revenue said recently. Thus, same-sex couples in Massachusetts "may need to perform special calculations" to arrive at the proper state income-tax figure, the state says.

Speaking of immigration statutes, presumably we can see yet another injustice resulting from DOMA's federal definition of marriage: a non-citizen who marries an American of the same sex will be subject to the same process of visa renewal and fear of deportation as a non-citizen who is not married to an American.

July 6, 2004 04:11 PM | TrackBack
Comments

This is not so much news. See, for example: this.

Posted by: paperwight at July 6, 2004 10:48 PM
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