November 14, 2012
Nanette Lee Miller, West Coast Partner-In-Charge of Assurance Services, Featured in CNNMoney Article "Same-Sex Couples Could See Tax Windfalls"
By Blake Ellis
If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, many same-sex couples could be in for substantial tax windfalls.
The Supreme Court is expected to discuss whether to hear cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, later this month. If the court decides to review the law, it could later rule that same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal should also be considered married in the eyes of the federal government.
If this happens, the financial landscape for same-sex couples would change drastically. And not just going forward. Some couples who are already married at a state level would suddenly qualify for refunds of estate or income taxes that they paid as a result of DOMA going back to 2009, said Nanette Miller, head of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) practice at accounting firm Marcum LLP.
Since same-sex couples can't file federal taxes jointly -- and can't combine their incomes and deductions to take advantage of lower tax rates and certain credits -- many pay thousands of dollars a year in extra income tax. This is especially true when one of the spouses earns a lot more than their partner.
Miller estimates that, on average, clients who would qualify for extra income tax refunds in the event that DOMA is overturned could expect to receive refunds of around $10,000 for each year they were married since 2009.
Of course, if DOMA is upheld by the Supreme Court, no one will receive a refund. But if the court decides to strike down the law, prepare to wait for the money you're owed: The IRS will be dealing with a huge flurry of amended tax returns, said Miller.