Top 7 Things Same-Sex Couples Need to Know About Marriage and Taxes

June 26, 2015 : H&R Block

Today, the Supreme Court decided same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. That means regardless of what individual states may have decided in the past (we decoded the confusing discrepancies here), all same-sex couples can now get married and have those unions legally recognized. Additionally, those already married and living in states that currently do not allow for same-sex marriage should now have their marriage recognized.

Besides the political, cultural and personal ramifications, getting a marriage certificate brings big changes at tax time, too. Here are the top tax items newly-married, or newly-recognized, gay couples need to know.

1. You cannot file as single.

Now you are recognized as a married couple, the single filing status is off the table for both federal and most state returns. Your choices are married filing jointly, married filing separately or, in limited cases, head of household. Filing as a married couple will get you two exemptions (instead of one when filing as single) and a higher standard deduction.

2. You might fall victim to the “marriage penalty.”

Choose between married filing jointly and married filing separately with care. While married filing jointly is typically the most advantageous it may not be the case for you. This is particularly true if you are both high-earners. You may actually see a negative impact on your tax return when you switch from filing as single to married filing jointly.

3. You need to change your withholdings.

Because of the additional exemption and higher standard deduction you are allowed to claim on a joint tax return, it may be wise to change your state withholding with your employer if you previously had to use a single filing status to reflect these changes.

4. You need to update your information.

Because your return is filed under your Social Security number (SSN), it is important to ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been notified of any name changes that take place. The SSA must process the change in the system and relay that information to the IRS before filing your return. You should wait to file your return until after the name change process has been completed to avoid any complications that could arise if the name on the return does not match the SSN on file with the SSA.

5. Your advance premium tax credit may be affected.

If either you or your new spouse has health insurance through a federal or state Marketplace, you should report your marriage if you have not already done so (as well as any associated changes, such as a move to a different state, change in income, or change in family size) to the Marketplace.  This will allow the Marketplace to adjust your advance credit payments if necessary.

6. First comes love, then comes marriage, then (sometimes) comes divorce.

Like heterosexual couples, divorce happens for same-sex couples. And there are serious impacts to your tax return when you separate or divorce. Make sure you get help from a tax professional.

7. You need to revisit past returns.

If you were married in a state that allowed same-sex marriages but lived in a state that did not you may have the opportunity to amend your previous state returns. For example, if you were married in New York in 2013 but lived in Missouri in 2013 and 2014, you may be able to amend your 2013 and 2014 state filings to reflect a married tax status. The ability to amend prior returns, and the manner in which such an amendment would be made, will likely depend on further guidance from each state. When the Supreme Court invalidated the federal prohibition against same-sex marriage in 2013, couples married in locations that allowed same-sex marriage were allowed to amend previous federal returns that used the single status and were filed during their marriage.

As always, H&R Block offices are open year-round. Make an appointment with one of our tax professionals to get help.

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