Same Sex Couples Filing Jointly in 2014

For the first time in US history, same-sex couples can file federal taxes jointly just like heterosexual married couples in the US. This is the outcome of a ruling by the US Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, where a same-sex marriage was recognized by the US federal government for the first time as a basis for a same-sex spouse being eligible for recognition under federal law.

Filing in 2014

This year, same-sex spouses can apply to file federal taxes just like a married couple filing jointly. In order to be eligible for this status, there are a few prerequisites:

  1. The marriage must have occurred either in 2013 or in a prior year;
  2. The marriage must have occurred in a jurisdiction either in the US or abroad;
  3. The jurisdiction of marriage must recognize same-sex marriage;
  4. However, same sex couples in a civil union or domestic partnerships, are not eligible to file taxes jointly as a married couple. They are still unmarried individuals for federal tax purposes.

Takeaway

Filing jointly could be a smart choice because of lower tax implications of joint filing.

See also:

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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DOMA Issues After the Passage of “US v. Windsor”

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal law that gives states the choice to deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 10 states; the remaining states have various alternatives on the lawfulness of same-sex unions, affecting the distribution of federal benefits for same-sex couples.

Section 3 of DOMA provides a federal definition of “marriage” as the union of a man and woman. In addition, Section 3 prohibits same-sex married couples from being acknowledged as “spouses” in terms of federal laws, for acquiring federal marriage benefits.

Earlier this summer, the constitutionality of DOMA — Section 3 in particular — was addressed in United States v. Windsor in the Supreme Court, where the plaintiff argued that the federal law encroaches on the Constitution’s equal protection clauses.

The plaintiff and her spouse were New York residents, who had legally wed in Canada. As residents of New York, their same-sex marriage was accepted under state law; however, due to Section 3, their marriage was not accepted by federal law. The federal government then taxed the plaintiff’s late spouse’s estate $363,053. If the marriage had been recognized by federal law, the estate wouldn’t be subject to taxes, and would have been authorized for a marital exemption.

In 2012, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA’s definitional section — Section 3 — was unconstitutional. More recently, the Supreme Court held that DOMA strips persons of the equal liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Now that Section 3 of DOMA has been struck down, several federal benefits and protections of opposite-sex couples have been extended to same-sex couples in state-recognized marriages:

  • Taxes: The Department of Justice and IRS have ruled that same-sex couples, who have been legally married in states that acknowledge those marriages, will be taxed as married couples. This is applicable to same-sex couples who live in a state that recognizes their marriage as well as to same-sex couples who live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage.
  • Social Security Benefits: The Social Security Administration (SSA) now acknowledges same-sex marriages for deciding Social Security benefits.
  • Medicare: Private Medicare plan beneficiaries will now receive equal coverage for care in their spouse’s nursing home.
  • US Visas for Same-Sex Spouses: Same-sex couples’ visa applications will now be processed the same as opposite-sex couples.  Both the Department of State and the USCIS will process same sex applications and apply the same standards as would be applicable to a heterosexual marriage.
  • Benefits for Uniformed Service Members: Benefits from the Department of Defense will now apply to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and civilian employees.
  • Benefits for Federal Employees: Benefits from the Office of Personnel Management will now apply to same-sex marriages of federal employees and annuitants.

Takeaway

This is a huge step towards equal application of the law and attendant benefits to same-sex couples. Many same-sex couples are returning to the US after spending years abroad with their foreign spouse. What a wonderful ending!

Read my other post on DOMA, USCIS releases FAQ on Immigration Benefits for Same Sex Marriages.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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USCIS releases FAQ on Immigration Benefits for Same Sex Marriages

USCIS Makes Good on its Promise

After the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional, USCIS issued a two-point FAQ today on filing for same-sex spouses. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued the following statement:

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly. To that end, effective immediately, I have directed USCIS to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

Now Same-Sex Partners can be Sponsored for Immigration Benefits

US citizens married to a same-sex spouse can now sponsor them for a family-based immigrant visa, both overseas and in the US. They can file the petition for a green card and any accompanying application. Eligibility will be determined according to applicable immigration law, and will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of the marriage.

Jurisdictional Issues

If the marriage was celebrated in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, but domicile in a state where recognition is not legal, some deference will be given to the ‘Full Faith & Credit Clause’ of the US Constitution. This allows the couple to file the petition. In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the state where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, USCIS may provide further guidance on this question in the future.

Questions Remaining

Can fiance petitions be filed for same-sex couples? Will a couples’ consular processing for these benefits be accorded the same deference by the Department of State? I suspect that issues of marriage fraud will be applied with equal vigor to these cases as well.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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