February 24, 2014

Janis Cowhey, Tax & Business Services Partner, Featured in The New York Times Article, "For Same-Sex Marrieds, a Tax Season to Look Back."

The New York Times

By Tara Siegel Bernardfeb

Featured Janis Cowhey, Modern Family & LGBT Services Group Leader

Janis Cowhey, Tax & Business Services Partner, Featured in The New York Times Article, "For Same-Sex Marrieds, a Tax Season to Look Back." Modern Family & LGBTQ Services




Tax season doesn’t usually stir up emotions about the meaning of family and equal rights.

But this year is different, at least for the tens of thousands of same-sex married couples who, for the first time, will be required to file federal income tax returns that reflect their married status. Whether couples ultimately owe more in taxes or receive big refunds, for many of them, it will provide a long-awaited sense of validation.

“It’s a big deal that an institution like the I.R.S. has to acknowledge our union and change its processes for us,” said Krystal Banzon, 29, who, in 2011, married Claudia Narvaez-Meza, a social worker and family therapist, in a small Buddhist ceremony in Manhattan.

The changes in the tax law are the result of the monumental Supreme Court decision last June, which gave same-sex marriage two legal victories. But like many gay couples, Ms. Banzon, who works for NBCUniversal, said that excitement about the changes quickly gave way to confusion and raised many questions.

One of the thorniest, for example, is whether now-married gay couples should also amend previous returns. Under the law they generally can choose to refile their last three tax returns using a married filing status — a potentially worthwhile move if it generates a nice refund. But how should couples approach that process?

And there are other issues: Can you easily recover the extra taxes many gay employees incurred when they bought health insurance for their spouses, for instance? And what do couples living in states that don’t recognize their unions need to know?

To answer some of these questions, Ms. Banzon and Ms. Narvaez-Meza, who have a 1-year-old son, Malaya, sought the advice of Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a partner at Marcum, an accounting firm in New York with a practice that specializes in tax and estate planning for same-sex couples.

The verdict on the past taxes: She suggested that they amend their 2011 return, which could generate an additional $800 refund, but said to leave 2012 alone.

Looking ahead, they are likely to get about $2,500 more back on their 2013 return than if they filed as singles. “You really have to take a step back and look at the entire picture,” Ms. McDonagh said. “It’s not always easy to say whether you will get a refund or not.”

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Janis L. Cowhey

Janis L. Cowhey


  • Tax & Business
  • New York, NY