The Internal Revenue Service is not known for making things easy on taxpayers. This is certainly true when it comes to same-sex couples who need to file taxes in Massachusetts. The reason the problem is so confusing for many is that the federal government does not yet recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. And this lack of recognition applies to the IRS as well.
For example, in states such as Massachusetts, New York and Iowa (to name just three), married same-sex couples must file separate federal tax returns. However, in these same states, married same-sex couples can file joint state returns. California, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon allow the same sort of state filings when they pertain to civil unions.
Filings for same-sex couples are also more expensive and complicated. Even simple returns may require the assistance of an accountant, depending on the income level of the couple. The bad news is that there is very little information provided by the IRS on this matter. One piece of information the IRS did release last year is Pub 555, which gives some guidance to same-sex married couples, but the information pertains mainly to those couples who live in community-property states.
When same-sex couples find themselves confused or just wanting to avoid problems with the IRS, they may wish to consult with an experienced Massachusetts tax attorney. Sympathetic professionals who are familiar with the ins and outs of the law can explain the current rules, as well as offer suggestions on how couples can minimize their taxes. As current tax laws are in such disarray, working with a tax attorney may prove to be the best option in an otherwise complex filing situation.
Source: Reuters, “Personal Finance: Marriage is taxing for same-sex couples,” Kathleen Kingsbury, Nov. 11, 2011