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DOMA ruling could save married same-sex couples thousands on taxes

July 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act could save same-sex couples thousands of dollars on taxes and other financial benefits.

John Singh and Jeff Watson have been domestic partners for 12 years, but with the recent ruling on same-sex marriages, they're now thinking about getting married. Their tax accountant, Elisha Weisenberg, told them one reason for considering it is the financial benefits that go along with being married.

"They get treated like any other married couple, and so now all of the benefits and all of the rights that any married couple has, they have," said Singh.

For some time, Singh and Watson have been registered as domestic partners, allowing them some state tax benefits, but that status thoroughly confused the IRS.

"That ended up resulting in these tons and tons and tons of notices from the IRS. At one point, we were owing thousands and thousands of dollars in self-employment taxes for [Jeff Watson], even though he wasn't self-employed, because I'm self-employed," said Singh.

It appears the IRS is ready to recognize California same-sex marriages and allow those couples to file jointly. Depending on income between the two taxpayers, their tax liability could go down.

"It could be one of those times where it would be, you know, finally married as a married couple can actually save them a few thousand dollars," said Weisenberg.

For example, if one person earns $70,000 and the other earns $30,000, their tax liability would be well over $19,000 filing separately. But it would be just under $12,000 if filing jointly.

In some cases, if same-sex couples are married and file jointly, it could cost them more in taxes. But the other benefits of pension, Social Security and state taxes, as well as health insurance, could offset that.

"Once we have more clarity on that, we'll probably be able to make a more informed decision," said Watson.

All of these details do need to be worked out by the federal government.

Weisenberg does have some advice for couples thinking about getting married.

"The primary reason for the couple to be getting married shouldn't be just the economics," said Weisenberg.


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