Apparently the Virginia Department of Taxation thinks that they understand taxes better than the IRS. They just came out with a bunch of new tax codes, and guess who bears some extra-stiff penalties? Why, yes, it’s LGBT couples. How ever did you guess?
For married gays, it’s a familiar situation: you have to file extra tax returns, because one government entity recognizes your relationship while another considers you strangers. But there’s a twist: while it used to be that states (like Iowa and Vermont) recognized the marriage and the federal government did not, this time it’s the other way around.
Since US Supreme Court overturned DOMA, the IRS has been steadily working on updating its policies to recognize LGBT couples. Hooray for that. But Virginia has decided to be less accommodating: even if you’re legally married (in Maryland or Connecticut, for example), Virginia won’t accept your join tax return. You’ll need to file as married for the feds, then whip up a fake “single” federal return, and then file a “single” state return for VA. This is great news for tax prep companies, but not for anyone else.
It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Missouri has a marriage ban, but they allow couples with out-of-state licenses to file as married. Yes, Virginia’s sunk so low as to make Missouri seem sophisticated and progressive. The state known for the racist anti-miscegenation laws that gave us Loving v. Virginia is at it again.
The good news is that incoming Governor Terry McAuliffe (pictured) is a staunch ally, so he could be our best hope for reversing the rotten policy. Bolstering our case is the anticipated burden to businesses that the discriminatory policy is expected to impose.
But fiddling with tax laws is no easy task, particularly when you have an equality ban as strident as Virginia’s. The state constitution doesn’t just ban marriage, it also prohibits civil unions. McAuliffe’s hands may be tied, and not in a fun way.
Fortunately, there’s one more chance of a resolution before tax day: AFER’s lawsuit. After overturning Prop 8, AFER filed a federal suit against Virginia. If they can wipe out the anti-gay law before taxes are due, maybe (and this is a big maybe) Virginia will have time to reform its tax policies for this year.