IRS OKs joint filings for gay couples

Adam and Steve can now file a joint federal tax return regardless of whether Georgia recognizes their marriage.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday they will let gay couples file joint tax returns if they were married in a state that allows gay marriage. The decision comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer.

“The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage,” said the IRS in a statement.

Although Georgia couples who get married in pro-gay marriage states, such as Massachusetts or New York, can file joint federal tax returns, the decision will not extend to their state tax returns. That’s because Georgia’s constitution includes a ban on gay marriage. The federal government will recognize marriages which took place in foreign countries that allow gay people to get married.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships will not be recognized as a marriage, though, and married couples must file using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” statuses.

“Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes,” said the IRS. “The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”

The decision was hailed by the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign, whose president, Chad Griffin, called on other federal agencies and departments to follow the Treasury Department’s lead in a statement posted on the campaign’s website.

“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of the state they call home,” said Griffin. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”