It’s tax time again and many LGBT couples face a complicated set of rules when filing taxes. Whether you are married or in a domestic partnership or civil union with your partner, you can not be considered married or spouses on any of your tax forms because of the definition set out in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
DOMA defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Spouse is similarly defined as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” This leaves LGBT couples unable to file joint tax returns for federal purposes. As a result, many of the typical deductions, exemptions, and credits that are available to heterosexual married couples are not available for LGBT couples.
LGBT couples are often times forced to file multiple tax returns and in some states, such as California, have to prepare a dummy federal tax return as married filing jointly in order to properly calculate taxes owed to California. The issues are so complicated that most free or low cost tax preparation services are unable to assist LGBT couples with their taxes effectively.
Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality of LGBT people. MAP created a detailed guide to the inequality faced by LGBT couples in the tax system titled “Unequal Taxation and Undue Burdens for LGBT Families.” The guide provides much more detail about the tax differences that will be present until DOMA is repealed by Congress or overturned by the Supreme Court.
There are currently a number of lawsuits making their way through the Federal Courts challenging the constitutionality of DOMA as applied in a number of areas. However, the Federal Courts move slowly and it is unlikely that we will see a significant change in the next year.