How Married Same-Sex Couples Should File Federal Taxes to Get the Best Refund

shutterstock_123528019Many Americans are facing tax issues this year that they’ve never experienced before. Whether it’s because of a marriage, a home sale or new federal and state rules, questions arising this close to the April 15 tax deadline can be stressful.

One big new rule this year is that the federal government is recognizing same-sex marriage for taxpayers living in states where it is not legalized. This means married same-sex pairs could end up having separate federal and state filing statuses depending on where they live. If a same-sex married couple lives in a state where their marriage is not recognized, each individual must file as single on his or her state tax return. However, now that same couple would file as married on their federal return. The new rule also gives same-sex married people tax filing options they might never have had to consider. For example, they now have the choice to file federal taxes as married filing jointly or married filing separately depending on which option offers the greater savings, especially if  their incomes are nearly identical.

There probably isn’t going to be a huge savings either way,” according to enrolled tax agent Bill Nemeth. “If you file married jointly going forward, you may end up paying a little bit more than as single, but it’s not going to be a huge differential. The only way you can know for sure is you really have to run the numbers on the exact situation. The type of couple that may be able to actually generate substantial refunds from prior years are couples where their incomes differ substantially.”

Those who are married or are thinking of marrying their same-sex partners, should talk to their tax preparers and ask for help making tax filing decisions based on this new rule. Skilled preparers could also help same-sex couples who were married before 2013 explore potential tax savings from previous years and file amended returns. Like all taxpayers, same-sex couples can really benefit from getting a professional to look at their taxes and determine if they are eligible for any money-saving benefits.


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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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