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Same-Sex Couples and Joint Tax Returns

As the end of 2015 approaches, same-sex married couples will be turning to the question of whether they should file joint tax returns, or as married persons filing separately.  Until the United States Supreme Court required all jurisdictions to recognize valid same-sex marriages, this was not an option for many.  Now that it is, when couples are deciding what to do about 2015, they should consider filing amended returns for prior years still subject to amendment, commonly three years.  This likely will require recalculation of taxes by the preparers of the original separate returns of the couple now entitled to recognition of their earlier marriage.  In the case of two-earner families, where separate income is not substantially different, the tax consequences may be insignificant or unfavorable.  In families where there is a great disparity between the taxable incomes of the two parties, there could be considerable savings.  In this time of specialists, tax preparers may not understand the full significance of changes in family law.  Just as the pharmaceutical ads say “ask your doctor about . . .,” same-sex married couples need to ask their accountant about amended tax returns.

By Armin U. Kuder

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