Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » Ten Reasons to Say Yes to Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » Ten Reasons to Say Yes to Marriage Equality: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Gay marriage is an extremely controversial topic. There are very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. It is an issue that entangles legal rights and religious beliefs, always a volatile mix. This article will list ten facts that are commonly given as reasons for gay marriage.

Divorce protection. Married couples who decide to end their relationship must do so through the court system. This protects the two parties from inequitable division of assets and liabilities that have been held jointly. This protection is not available to unmarried gay couples or unmarried heterosexual couples, though they can certainly enter into contractual agreements in regards to their relationships that would provide the same or better protection to their rights.
Bereavement leave. Whether it is paid or unpaid, almost every employer allows for time off from work for the bereavement of your spouse or other close family members. Couples, whether gay or straight, who do not have a marriage certificate, are dependent upon the compassion of their employers to provide them a similar benefit, should their life partner die.
Survivor benefits. Social security and many pension plans provide survivor benefits to surviving spouses, another benefit not available to unmarried couples.
Tax benefits. There are many different tax benefits that are offered to married couples, such as filing jointly, that a gay couple does not have access to without marriage. Again, the same is true for unmarried heterosexuals.
Insurance benefits. Although this has changed with a few employers and insurance companies, most insurance benefits that are available to an employee’s spouse or family members are not available to an employee’s life partner.
Sick leave to care for a partner. State and federal laws provide protection for worker’s jobs when they need to take time off to care for family members for medical reasons. Without the benefit of marriage, these laws do not provide the same protection for unmarried couples.
Stability of relationships. There are those who would argue that entering into a marriage relationship that is recognized legally, and by society in general, would bring greater stability to some gay couples. With the high rate of divorce and marriage conflict among heterosexual couples, this argument would imply that the same would not apply to gay couples, which seems unlikely.
Validation of family unit. This reason for gay marriage is much more societal than the ones that relate to monetary and legal benefits listed above. Proponents of gay marriage would argue that a legal and recognized marriage would legitimize their family unit in the eyes of society, which would be emotionally beneficial to a gay couple and any children in the household. The truth to this can only be theorized, as with any other major change to the norm of society.
Relational ties to extended family. Conventional marriage relationships become easily translated into inlaws, aunts and uncles. Non-married couples can be left without these inclusive family titles that have always come via marriage. With the increase of heterosexual couples that have chosen not to marry, this issue, again, is not exclusive to gay couples.
Cultural change. When all the reasons for gay marriage are brought together, they boil down to this one. Proponents for gay marriage believe that there needs to be a change in how modern society views and relates to homosexuals. Legalizing gay marriage is considered to be a major step in bringing about that change. It is also the reason why those who do not feel that homosexuality is acceptable, for religious or other reasons, take such a strong stand against it.

The affect of the legalization of gay marriage on society is something that can only be speculated at. First of all, no one knows how many gay couples would choose to enter into a marriage relationship, if it were available. The initial influx into the marriage ranks might be large to begin with, but whether or not the trend would continue is hard to judge. The financial impact of such a major shift in private and governmental benefits cannot be accurately calculated, but it would certainly be significant, as would the impact on society in general. The legalization of gay marriage, as shown above, would be a major cultural change that affects many more lives than the gay community itself. The debate over this issue will not be quickly or easily settled, nor should it be

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Married Gay Couples "Refuse to Lie" on Tax Forms -

some important info in this article about equalizing assets

Married Gay Couples "Refuse to Lie" on Tax Forms - "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Courtesy of Equality Florida The “Refuse to Lie” campaign was created gay activists who believe that the federal government should acknowledge same-sex marriage.
What if You're Gay - Your Money - Bucks Blog -

Some same-sex married couples are refusing to file their federal tax returns separately this tax season, as part of a movement demonstrating that they’re no longer content to quietly comply with the federal law that does not recognize same-sex marriage. And in some cases, these taxpayers will pay Uncle Sam more when they do so.

Same-sex couples who have married, or who have a legal status equivalent to marriage in certain states, must still file separate federal returns because the government — and therefore the Internal Revenue Service — defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.

Using that definition, federal tax returns ask taxpayers to check one of five options under their filing status: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Married same-sex partners typically file their own federal returns either as single or, if they qualify, as head of household, which has more favorable rates than the single filing status.

But many same-sex couples contend that filing as single amounts to lying about their marriage status, and that’s the message behind the “Refuse to Lie” campaign created by gay activists, which is timed to coincide with tax season.

“More people are refusing to lie on those forms, even though the government is telling them to,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group Equality Florida, who plans on filing a joint return with her wife, Andrea. “It would be both dishonest and deeply humiliating to now disavow each other or our marriage and declare ourselves single on our tax form.”

Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate who acts as an ombudsman for the I.R.S., acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding federal taxation of same-gender spouses in an annual report to Congress. In the report, she said that taxpayers may take a filing position without penalty if there is “substantial authority” to do so, such as a court case that hasn’t been overruled by the United States Court of Appeals. And there happen to be two such cases, which are currently on appeal.

In July 2010, the Federal District Court in Massachusetts declared the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law known as DOMA that defines marriage as between a man and a woman — as unconstitutional in two cases. They are now being appealed in the First Circuit. “Thus, there may be substantial authority for same-gender spouses to take certain tax positions as married as long as the Massachusetts district court’s opinions stands,” Ms. Olson said in the report.

The “Refuse to Lie” Web site warns same-sex couples of the risks of filing jointly, and explains different options to both adhere to the law while expressing that they disagree with it. One way to do that would be to put an asterisk by the “single” box, and then indicate at the bottom of the tax form that you are “only single under DOMA.” Another option, the site says, is to attach a note with a similar message.

The campaign also explains on its Web site how to file a joint return while avoiding penalties. In the first method, each partner would file their own single return and include an attachment stating that they’re married, and then file an amended return jointly. “Once the I.R.S. rejects the amended return, or if six months passes and they do nothing, the taxpayers who file an amended return have the right to file suit in Federal District Court claiming the refund,” the activists’ site said, adding that this option would avoid penalties because your original return would be filed according to the law.

Another method suggests filing two returns: one filed jointly (and showing the tax due on the joint return) and one filed as a single taxpayer (showing the tax due on that return). Pay whatever is due on the single return — which means you will not have underpaid — and then ask the I.R.S. which return to accept. But if the I.R.S. accepts the joint return and issues you a refund, “there is no way to know what will happen if you are later audited,” the site said.

“People who follow this example need to do so with a clear head about the decision they are making and that what could happen is unclear,” Ms. Smith, of Equality Florida, said. “It’s not without risk.”

But there’s another way to preserve your right to collect any refunds due to you if the law is eventually struck down. Patricia Cain, a professor at Santa Clara Law and an expert on sexuality and federal tax law, said that couples who would benefit from a joint filing — that is, couples who would pay less in taxes or receive refunds — can file a protective claim using I.R.S. Form 843. (File separate returns in accordance with the law, then attach the form to an amended joint return).

“If you state on Form 843 that your claim is based on the unconstitutionality of DOMA, which is an issue pending in current litigation, it is more likely that the I.R.S. will do nothing until the issue is finally determined,” she added. “And if DOMA is struck down as unconstitutional, you should be entitled to the refund on the amended return.”

Although she generally recommends that same-sex married couples file their own returns in accordance with the law, she said that couples living in Massachusetts might be able to better justify filing their returns jointly because of the two court cases there.

“The question is whether that is sufficient as substantial authority to avoid being assessed penalties if you were audited by the I.R.S. and found to have filed incorrectly,” Professor Cain said.

She also said that she knew some same-sex couples in several different states who had filed joint returns and received refunds. “It’s because the returns are handled by machines,” she said, adding that the 1040 forms don’t have any gender markers on them. “That doesn’t mean they won’t be audited sometime. But honestly, I think the I.R.S. has bigger fish to fry than figuring out where same-sex couples filed jointly.”

Taxpayers who don’t pay the proper amount of tax will be levied a 20 percent penalty on top of the amount of tax owed. An I.R.S. spokeswoman said the agency followed the federal Marriage Act and declined further comment.

But for Kate Kendell it’s about more than the money. Ms. Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said she and her wife, Sandy, who have been together for 18 years and have two children, are going to file as married this year (they married in California during the brief window in 2008 when same-sex marriage was permitted there).

“As a lawyer and a legal advocate for the L.G.B.T. community, I am often in a position to advise people to exercise great caution and to comply in most cases with the letter of the law, even when that means denying who we are,” she said. “This is my small way of saying, where we can, we are not going to play the game anymore.”

In their case, the move is going to cost the couple more than $5,000.

If you’re part of a same-sex couple and would like to file jointly, how far would you go to show that you disagree with the current law? And what does everyone else think about this effort?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tax Answers for Same Sex Couples - WNYC

Read this about married couples and tax filings Look especially at last question from bottom. Could be very important to couples

Tax Answers for Same Sex Couples - WNYC: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

With the tax filing deadline approaching, Tina Salandra, CPA and principal at Numerical, LLC, offers advice for LGBT families on how to prepare their tax returns.

Fifty states, two levels of government, an incredibly complex tax code—you'd be hard-pressed to find a more tangled case study of bureaucracy than in the challenges that same sex couples face every April.

Filing income taxes at the state and federal levels gets tricky for a couple that isn't legally allowed to marry everywhere, and whose legitimate marriage in one state isn't grounds for recognition from the national government. Though President Obama recently ordered the Justice Department not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law stands, and will remain standing until it's successfully challenged in court. That means that for the time being, a homosexual couple wed in Vermont still can't file their federal income taxes as a married couple, even though they're allowed to file their state taxes that way.

What's more, the variety of partnership allowances for gay couples further complicates the matter. Certain states (California, New Jersey, Oregon) have banned same sex marriage in favor of civil unions and domestic partnerships, but still allow those couples who were joined in another state to file their state taxes as a unit. Then there's New York, which doesn't allow gay marriage, but recognizes and extends marriage rights to gay couples from out of state—then still doesn't let them file together.

"New York state has not changed any of their tax laws relevant to same sex couples, at least not for the 2010 filing season." said Tina Salandra, a CPA with experience filing same sex tax returns. For tax purposes, married gays in the state of New York aren't married at all. Contrast that with New Jersey's example: Salandra says the state actually requires every couple in a civil union to file as married; they don't even have the option to file single, as they're required to for their federal return.

"You either file 'married/civil union' or 'married filing separately/civil union filing separately," she explains. "It's actually neutral for the family bottom line."
What do same sex couples need to know as they prepare to file their state taxes?

The first step is to double check your state tax laws regarding same sex partners. The most obvious consequence of being allowed or forced to file together is that a couple's combined income could bump them into a collectively higher tax bracket than the one in which either individual would otherwise land—the "marriage penalty," as it's known.

That can only happen to gays at the local level, in states that permit joint filing. But Tina Salandra said that ultimately, a couple's state tax return isn't going to look remarkably different whether they file separately or not.

"States have such a narrow range of tax brackets—let's say five to nine percent—that there often isn't the same disparity for filing single or married as there is with federal tax return," she said. The difference gets more pronounced at the national level, where there's a wider range of tax rates.
How can these couples better manage their money to come close to the same deal heterosexual marriages enjoy?

Salandra fielded several questions regarding specific situations and provisions in the federal tax code. Right off the bat, gay couples shouldn't even think about filing their federal taxes jointly; fraudulent statements constitute a felony. For the finer points of financial maneuvering, here's what Salandra had to offer:

→ If you co-own property, can both homeowners get the mortgage interest deduction?

You can both get the mortgage interest deduction so long as you are both legally liable for the mortgage debt. You can allocate that interest any way you like within couple: split it 100-0, 90-10, 60-40, etc.

→ What if one partner stays home with child while other works? in a marriage, working spouse can take a dependent deduction for stay-at home spouse. can one aprtner be deemed as dependent?

Possibly. A partner can be deemed a "dependent other" if the working partner and taxpayer provides more than 50 percent of their support and the nonworking partner earns less than $3,650—the dependent exemption. That figure doesn't just have to be wage income; it includes interest, dividends, capital gains; none of that can exceed $3,650.

→ Could a same sex couple form an LLC, or incorporate legally, and then file corporate taxes? Treat your relationship as a business?

That's a very complex question, and depends on a lot. You can certainly form a corporation and put your jointly held assets in there, but some other complexities that could be negative. I wouldn't be able to answer that without knowing a lot of other information.

→ What if one partner makes more than the other, but it all goes into the same pot? Do you have to worry about the $13,000 gift tax limit?

There's a temporary tax law in place that allows a lifetime exemption of $5 million through the end of 2013. That's a new law that came into play January 1, 2011. That's an opportunity I see for same sex couples to gift half an apartment that one owned before they got together, half a brokerage account, etc., to make things a little more level in the relationship.

→ It's too late to change aspects of co-ownership or financial responsibilities for their 2010 return, but what can people do in the coming year to make it easier to file their 2011 taxes?

They should combine their assets legally, make sure they're both on the deed of their home and liable for the mortgage, and should have joint bank accounts. Likewise, if possible in the state they're in, if they have children, they should make sure to both be legal parents, whether they're adopted or biological.

However and wherever you file, tax day is April 18th this year. Same sex couples with questions can turn to specialists like Lambda Legal, Salandra's Numerical LLC, and the planning firm Christopher Street Financial.