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April 09, 2010

“Do your homework before saying ‘I do’”

Michael L. Fine makes a very compelling point that marriage complicates your taxes in his commentary, “Do your homework before saying ‘I do’”, DC Agenda, April 08, 2010.

The willful failure of the federal government to recognize same-sex married couples, and thereby denying us access to more than 1000 rights and responsibilities mostly related to taxes, is the culprit. This will continue until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen soon.

Mr. Fine writes:

“The problems we encounter are both D.C.- and IRS-related. Once you are either registered as domestic partners or legally married you must start preparing your D.C. taxes together with your partner or spouse. Your options no longer include filing as “single” for two very good reasons. Your spouse will be upset that you are telling people you are “single” and the D.C. government is going to be equally upset because you will be in violation of the District tax laws.”
This is not quite right. The D.C. Government will recognize that you are married, but let you use the same tax filing status that you used on your federal forms. Same-sex married couples must file as single on their federal taxes; however, they may file as either married or single on D.C. forms. This is not case for opposite-sex married couples. Those couples must have the same D.C. filing status as they use on their federal forms, either married filing singly, or married filing jointly.

When the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act went into effect on March 3, a second marriage bill also quietly went into effect. The second law, the “Income Tax Joint Filing Clarification Act of 2009”, added a new paragraph to the tax code (Section 47-1805.01):

“(g) Joint filing of returns for married same-sex individuals. – Married same-sex individuals may file either a joint return or separate returns on a combined form prescribed by the Mayor as if the federal government recognized the right of married same-sex individuals to file jointly.”.

This is similar to the law for domestic partners.

Without the “Income Tax Joint Filing Clarification Act of 2009,” same-sex married couples would not be able to file their taxes jointly at all. D.C. normally requires you to use the same tax filing status that you used on your federal forms. I was the only member of the public to submit testimony on this bill. I was home with pneumonia when Councilmember Jack Evans held a hearing or I would have gone in person. I had earlier asked Councilmember Jack Evans if he would introduce it. He did so with David Catania, Jim Graham, and Phil Mendelson. Every member of the Council voted for it on the consent agenda, even the two Councilmembers who voted against the marriage equality bill. It received no notice in the press so it is understandable that even professionals would not have noticed it. It isn’t even part of the online D.C. Code yet.

In short, the option is yours. You will have to do more paperwork to file jointly, as you must supply D.C. with your federal taxes forms as if you could file jointly. Filing jointly is symbolically good and good for the soul, but it may cost you. Depending on your particular situation, you might pay more taxes jointly. You also might pay less. You should definitely do your homework, and probably hire a professional.


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"Single" and "Married filing separately on the same return" are two very different filing statuses. Once married and while married, "Single" is no longer an option when filing a DC tax return for ANY married couple, same or opposite sex. - Mike Fine

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