This summer, same-sex couples achieved a legal victory in the Supreme Court when the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) was held unconstitutional. In the wake of this landmark decision, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has announced that in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal, couples will be recognized as “married” for federal income tax purposes. This eliminates one of the conundrums facing same sex couples – including the lack of federal benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples.
In Rev. Rul. 2013-17, the IRS clarified its position based on the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor concluding that:
gender-neutral terms in the Code that refer to marital status, such as “spouse” and “marriage,” include, respectively, (1) an individual married to a person of the same sex if the couple is lawfully married under state law, and (2) such a marriage between individuals of the same sex. This is the most natural reading of those terms; it is consistent with Windsor, in which the plaintiff was seeking tax benefits under a statute that used the term “spouse,” 133 S. Ct. at 2683; and a narrower interpretation would not further the purposes of efficient tax administration.”
And that “the terms ‘husband and wife,’ ‘husband,’ and ‘wife’ should be interpreted to include same-sex spouses.”
The ruling applies to all federal tax purposes including both income tax and gift and estate tax. It is set to take effect on September 16, 2013 however, so long as the statute of limitations has not run, same-sex couples who were legally married in prior years, may file an amended return.