While companies like Google and colleges like Syracuse University are footing the bill for the tax liability faced by the partners of gay employees who receive health care benefits, Yale University just showed its unwillingness to do so when a payroll error smacked gay staff and faculty with a surprise tax bill. Why not just pick up the tab, Mr. Gay Ivy?
You see, due to a computer programming error Yale failed to withhold the necessary cash from 61 gay employees to pay the federal taxes on their partners’ benefits for 2010, so the school notified them in a December letter that while Yale would front the cash to pay the tax bill for them in the immediate, the school would begin deducting the cost from the 61 staffers’ paychecks through the first three months of 2011.
Even though Connecticut recognizes same-sex marriage and thus treats shared health care benefits among gay partners the way it does married straight couples (read: tax-free), the federal government does not, thanks to DOMA. Yale erred by treating 2010 benefits as tax-free at both the state and federal level. But rather than use its own screw up as a moment to realize it could do something about the government’s discrimination and use some of its $16.3 billion endowment to foot the bill for gay staffers, it’s tacking on the additional taxes — which amount to thousands of dollars a year — to their 2011 pay checks.
Says a Yale spokesperson: The university “looks forward to a time when there is a federal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil union rights with respect to tax withholding rules.” I’m sure Yale staffers look forward to a time when the university realizes it can afford to right this injustice. If Syracuse can do it, with an endowment of just $850 million — or 5 percent of Yale’s — I can’t imagine why the Ivy leaguer in New Haven cannot. Especially because, holy crap, Yale is the gayest school in New England.