Worcester and other Massachusetts readers may know that society, just like technology, evolves, including family law issues. Nowadays, non-traditional family settings are becoming more commonplace and more accepted. Some couples live together without being married; others live in blended families or with same sex spouses. With non-traditional family matters, same-sex marriage can be considered controversial.
Despite the fact that some states, like Massachusetts, permit same-sex couples to marry, these kinds of partnerships can be subject to scrutiny when it comes to certain benefits, taxes and finances.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level. A federal lawsuit that the Supreme Court recently accepted, however, tests Section 3 of this law. Section 3 of DOMA states that same-sex marriage will not be recognized at the federal level for any purpose, including Social Security benefits, tax rates and benefits, and qualification for immigration. In these areas, if DOMA is nullified by the high court, there will be certain advantages and disadvantages for same-sex married couples.
If the marriage act is overturned, same-sex couples may file their income taxes as married individuals. For some couples, this will lower their overall taxes, but other couples will see their taxes go up.
When it comes to health benefits, same-sex spouses may have insurance through their employers or a group health insurance plan. But usually, the employee is required to pay the income tax on his or her partner’s health coverage. But if DOMA is reversed, same sex couples will not need to pay for this tax anymore. Overturning the Defense of Marriage Act may also bring eligibility to same-sex couples for Social Security spousal benefits-just like traditional married couples.
An overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act will also affect same-sex couples’ divorces. Today, when same-sex couples file for a divorce, issues like property division can result in taxes that couples in an opposite-sex divorce do not have to pay. Same-sex couples in a divorce may also encounter complicated issues regarding transferring retirement accounts to a former spouse. On the other hand, if DOMA is dropped, same-sex divorce may become a simpler and less expensive process.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Same-sex taxes if DOMA dies,” Kathleen Pender, Dec. 15, 2012