In 1958, the Internal Revenue Service issued Revenue Ruling 58-66 which stated that the marital status of individuals for Federal Income Tax purposes was the same as the status of those individuals under state law. This ruling specifically referenced state laws that recognized common-law marriages.
On August 29, 2013, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17 which discusses the Windsor case decided by the Supreme Court and the fact that Revenue Ruling 58-66 is now amplified to adopt a general rule, for Federal Tax purposes, that recognizes the validity of a same-sex marriage that was valid in the state where it was entered into, regardless of the married couple’s place of domicile. This means that people living in a state where same-sex marriage is not allowed under that state’s law but who were validly married in Iowa, will be able to file a federal income tax return as married individuals.
However, this ruling does go on to state that the term marriage for Federal Tax Law purposes does not include registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other similar formal relationship recognized under state law that are not denominated as a marriage under that state’s law.
The holdings of this revenue ruling are prospectively applied as of September 16, 2013, but taxpayers may go back and amend prior returns to get the benefit of filing as married taxpayers. A taxpayer is allowed to go back and amend tax returns within 3 years from the time a return was filed in order to claim a refund for the overpayment of previously paid taxes. This ruling extends beyond just the filing status and personal exemptions allowed under federal tax rules and also affects income tax with respect to certain employer-provided health coverage benefits or fringe benefits that were provided by the employer and are excludable from income based on an individual’s marital status.