Uncle Samantha

The U.S. Government Demands Married Gay Citizens Lie to the IRS


In a couple states across the nation, gay marriage is legal. Yes, in the eyes of the law! But come April 15, when millions of Americans will have filed their annual tax return, they’ll be forced to lie to the government. Forced.

That’s because the federal tax return we remit to the IRS makes you sign acknowledgment of this line: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete.”

But what if you’re legally in a same-sex marriage, as Connecticut and Massachusetts (and California, briefly) permit? You’re still forced to mark the box “single” because, courtesy the Defense of Marriage Act, the feds don’t recognize same-sex unions — and, effectively, you’ve just lied “under penalties of perjury” to the government. Points out Edge New England:

That’s what the IRS expects, and yet its Web site and instruction booklets offer only one sentence of guidance to married same-sex couples who must prepare tax returns for the federal government. That sentence simply states the impact of DOMA: “For federal tax purposes, a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.”

Massachusetts and California, on their Web sites, have extensive, easy-to-find guides for same-sex married couples on how to file their state taxes. Instructions for Connecticut, which began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in November 2008, are more muddled, in part because the state also has civil unions.

The number of same-sex couples having to tackle the insults and inequities of the federal tax return is growing. They numbered about 10,000 – all in Massachusetts – last year. This year, Massachusetts has topped 16,000 (according to Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) and California (between June and November) added more than 18,000. (Figures for Connecticut are not yet available, due to technical issues.)

What these couples will discover – if they didn’t already know – is that DOMA not only renders them second-class citizens – by virtue of requiring that their legitimate marriages be deemed invisible – but it forces them to pay more taxes than similarly situated heterosexual couples.

And don’t even get us started on how the tax code screws gay couples financially.

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