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How DOMA Ruling Will Affect Same-Sex Spouses

Many details about benefits and rights will remain unsettled for a while — 35 states do not recognize same-sex marriage — but here are answers to some common FAQs

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May same-sex couples file federal tax returns as "married"?

Yes. In late August, the IRS announced that all legally married same-sex couples may file as "married," even if they do not live in a recognition state. 

Non-recognition states may still require legally married same-sex spouses to file state returns as "single," so some couples could have to file joint federal returns and individual state returns. 

What about my past returns? Can those be amended?

Yes. According to the IRS announcement in August, you may amend returns from previous years. Refunds may be available if health insurance for your same-sex spouse was counted as income or if you paid excessive Social Security or Medicare taxes. The IRS will allow you to amend your tax returns and claim a refund three years after your return was filed or two years after the taxes were paid, whichever is later. For more information, follow this link.

What about past tax underpayments?

If you and your same-sex spouse would owe taxes for past years now that the federal government recognizes your marriage, you do not have to pay the difference.  

Will health insurance coverage be affected?

In many cases, yes. For specifics, check with your employer. Here are several possible broad changes:

  • Although many private employers had already allowed workers to add same-sex spouses to their health plan, more will now. So will the federal government. Whether workers will be able to add a spouse right away isn't clear.

  • In the past, individuals who had health insurance through their same-sex spouses had to pay taxes on the value of that insurance, because it was considered to be income. The value of the health insurance will no longer be taxed.

  • Workers who have flexible spending arrangements through their employers will be able to add same-sex spouses.

Any changes to Medicare?

Yes. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that same-sex spouses covered under private Medicare plans are entitled to Medicare coverage for care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.  

Next page: How individual state laws affect inheritance taxes for same-sex couples. »

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