The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued ruling 2013-17 which expands the definition of married couples within the tax code to include same-sex married couples.  The entire ruling can be viewed at: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rr-13-17.pdf.  The expanded definition will take effect on September 16, 2013.

The IRS ruling is not unexpected in the wake of U.S. v. Windsor, the Supreme Court decision earlier this year which invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.  With that impediment removed, the IRS will include same-sex couples in the definitions of “spouse,” “husband and wife,” “husband,” and “wife.”  These terms are used more than 200 times throughout the Tax Code.  They will now be treated as gender neutral.

In explaining its rationale, the IRS likens same-sex married couples to common-law married couples in that the marriages are valid in some states, but not others, which creates administrative issues for the federal government.  It states in its ruling that “Although states have different rules of marriage recognition, uniform nationwide rules are essential for efficient and fair tax administration. A rule under which a couple’s marital status could change simply by moving from one state to another state would be prohibitively difficult and costly for the Service to administer, and for many taxpayers to apply.”  Therefore, as the IRS previously did with common-law marriages, it will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, if validly entered into pursuant to the laws of the state into which the purported marriage occurs.  The result, therefore, is that a same-sex couple which secures a valid marriage in one state may not be entitled to recognition in their state of residency (for tax and others benefits), but will be entitled to recognition for tax purposes federally.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly at mhovey@gmail.com.  Thank you!