The only thing certain in gay marriage is death and screwed up taxes.
Ah yes. As sure as the moon rises and the sun sets, April showers and tax season arrive each year. And this year is no different, unless you're gay and got married in one of the 17 states or District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal. If so, then welcome to your tax-filing nightmare.
Honestly, as if filing taxes wasn't screwed up enough, this year for those loving gay couples that jumped into the matrimony circle, everything may or may not be coming up roses. And, if you're in a domestic partnership, in a state where domestic partnerships are recognized, it could be even more screwy, and not in a "let's screw" fun way!
Here's the low down, and the reason that the demand for Valium and liquor this tax season is so high amongst gay married couples.
Good News: The Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor, (Rah, Rah Judges), struck down the silly little parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that said, "You gays can get married but we Federal peeps aren't giving the bene's or the tax breaks. But go ahead on, and get married!"
That ruling sent our favorite people, Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service, scrambling to rewrite codes, laws, etc. to be inclusive of same-sex couples for federal income tax purposes, regardless of where they live. GO JUDGES. GO JUDGES!
Bad News: This "we find these portions of DOMA unconstitutional" didn't cause a "do as I say" movement to filter down throughout the 50 United States. After all, that would be forcing states to accept that gay marriage is cool, so just deal with it. No, no, no. We must allow the states their constitutional right to screw with peoples ability to love and file taxes.
Good News: Since the Supreme Court rocked their robes and made it rain equality, the IRS now recognizes married same-sex couples for the purposes of income tax, estate and gift taxes and many associated payroll taxes tied to employee spousal benefits. In other words, gay and married is pretty much the same as straight and married.
Bad News: If your state doesn't recognize your legal marriage, then your husband/husband, wife/wife couples will have to file as "single" on your state tax returns. Depending on income levels, it may not be a bad thing; it simply means more paper work for you, or higher fees to pay your tax preparer for having to file additional filings. In other words, instead of one joint state tax return, and one joint federal tax return, you file one joint federal tax return, and two single state tax returns. 1 +2 = 3 headaches to file.
Confusing News: In some really twisted states, you may be instructed to file your state taxes using your federal filing status even if your state doesn't recognize your legal marriage. Head scratch on that one, and time for another Valium and shot of vodka!
More Confusing News: In even more twisted states, there is no state income tax to file but there may be taxable income to be paid to the state for interest and dividend earnings. (I know, eyes glazing and it's not from the vodka). In this case, what the heck do you do if the interest and dividends are jointly held by both of you but the state you live in doesn't recognize your legal marriage. I say, pop another Valium, run to the store for more vodka, and find a damn good, well versed, gay or lesbian tax accountant and let them mire through this muck!
Even More Confusing News: Of course, if you’re like me, a late bloomer who came out of the closet, well, late in life (thus the late bloomer reference), and you've been filing single, head of household with a dependent (a.k.a daughter) and you’ve gotten married, which I haven’t yet (still waiting for that ring…hint, hint Jorge), then what do you do with the head of household and dependent deductions? My daughter isn't my partner's blood daughter, nor did he adopt her, even though he's told daily by both our daughters (my ex-wife claims the other one on her taxes) "We love you like a Dad." Now things are really complicated, and the Valium bottle is empty and the liquor store owner has cut us off. SIGH!
Even More, More Confusing News: On top of the rest of the confusing and conflicting tax mumbo jumbo that's turning you into a candidate for a recurring role on Celebrity Rehab, (even though you're not a celebrity but should be for having to act normal while going insane with the new tax issues), if you are a sole proprietor business owner, where your business expenses have helped to offset your tax liability, how does that apply under the mish mash of laws. In this case switch to Bourbon, go to a different liquor store, find a doctor friend to write you a prescription for Ambien, and go to sleep and wake up once all this is sorted out. Of course, then you'll be paying tax penalties for not filing by April 15th.
At the end of the day, gay marriage is great, brings moments of pure joy, and levels the playing field of equality. Alas, when it comes to tax season, it also requires a hefty investment in liquor, which is not tax deductible, and prescription drugs, which are tax-deductible if you have just the right ratio of medical expenses to income. Or, you could just take a deep breath and give thanks that progress has been made and hopefully one day, this too will pass and everyone will be playing on the same tax rules.
Until then, if you need assistance, here are some great resources for sorting things out.
IRS – You'll need a translator for this one
Rev. Rul. 2013-17 – Another translator for this one
BevMo – You must be 21 years of age with cash, credit, check or debit card
CVS – You'll need a doctor's prescription for the Valium and Ambien
Life Coach Rick – for when you need to get refocused, put your life back together, or couples coaching after all those fights over "but that's my portion of the tax return," once the taxes are filed. First Session Free – Click Here! Seriously, it's free and not taxable!
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