Same-Sex Couples Feel Like Second Class Citizens on Tax Day
Several gay couples across the country are reminded on Tax Day that they are not treated the same as heterosexuals as the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, which forces legally married gay couples to file their federal income taxes separately.
Kris Hobbs-Thompson and her wife Heather are one of those couples. The women, who are from Iowa, said that they feel like their marriage is "fake" because the federal government does not recognize marriage equality, the (Des Moines) Gazette reported.
Along with 131,000 same-sex couples that live in the U.S., Kris and Heather will have to file as "single" on their tax forms, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA, which was signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally married gay couples.
If filing federal income taxes isn’t confusing enough, it has been an even more splitting headache and an expensive process for many gay couples. For example, Heather discovered that she could have received $2,000 more if she could file jointly with her partner.
"We pay taxes to the federal government, we do everything else that the government says we need to do for a regular married couple, but we don’t get recognized as a married couple according to the federal government," she said.
According to research, gays pay on average nearly $500,000 more over a lifetime due to discriminatory laws and practices, the (Salem, Ore.) StatesmanJournal points out. The site said that according to a recent CNNMoney study, same-sex couples pay as much as $6,000 more in annual federal income taxes than other married couples, even in the states that have legalized unions.
Marriage Bad? Civil Unions Even Worse
Jack Denelsbeck and Jonathan Javins have also been greatly impacted by DOMA. The men married in San Francisco when California legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. A few years later the couple moved to New Jersey and entered into a civil union as the state does not recognize same-sex marriages. New Jersey’s civil union, however, offers gay couples the same rights and protections as marriage but without the title, the (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported.
"We didn’t think about taxes when we got the civil union," said Denelsbeck. "But then, all of a sudden, there were all of these issues."
Denelsbeck is a health educator in Manhattan and because he works in New York and because he is in a civil union, filing federal income taxes has become a nightmare. "Civil unioned New Jerseyans who work in New York, for instance, have to prepare six or more tax forms, while heterosexual couples need only prepare three," the newspaper points out.
"Every year it’s more and more stressful and frustrating," said Denelsbeck. This year, Denelsbeck and Javins had to prepare seven forms, which cost them $925.
Denelsbeck also says having to files individually as a single has greatly impacted him. "Having to check a box that doesn’t reflect my relationship, you kind of feel like you’re being demeaned," he said.
Hayley Gorenberg, the deputy legal director of Lambda Legal, told the Star-Ledger that New Jersey couples who legally tied the knot in New York had to default to civil unions.
"It’s just insulting to their committed married relationships," said Gorenberg. "It’s a shame that people are trying to do their basic civic duty as taxpayers, and the government is throwing these hurdles in their way."
Single-Only Status on Tax Forms
Jennifer Harvey, a professor at Drake University, wrote an opinion piece for (Iowa City, Iowa) Press-Citizen that slammed DOMA. Married gay couples in the U.S. have to file as singles, she pointed out.
"The way tax law works, our Iowa state tax return is based on our federal tax return. However, because we must file as single for our federal taxes, we have to create a mock return that shows what our taxes would have looked like if the federal government had recognized our marriage," she writes. "We don’t file this mock return but have to prepare it and use it to prepare our state taxes. What other married couple has to file a mock tax return?"
In order to bring awareness about the issue, the Human Rights Campaign released an issue brief on Federal Taxation "illustrating how same-sex couples are denied equal treatment under the tax law, are forced to spend more time and money filing their taxes, and face inconsistent interpretation and enforcement of IRS guidance and practice related to adoption."
"Tax day is hard enough but discriminatory laws exacerbate the burden on LGBT Americans," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Even for couples who are legally married, DOMA denies them equal rights and dignity that all families deserve."
Marriage for Equality USA also sought out to shed light on the issue as the organization held its annual National Tax Day Protest at local post offices around the U.S.
"We will stand up every year for equal taxation without discrimination, until we have full federal equality for all Americans," said Billy Bradford, who will be leading the protest in Oakland, California.
"It’s that crazy time of year again when the IRS requires you to affirm under penalty of law that you have been completely truthful on your tax forms, while simultaneously the Defense of Marriage Act actually mandates that some US couples lie on their tax forms," Marriage Equality’s USA’s Thom Watson said. "The federal government requires us to check off the ’Single’ box on our 1040s, and to file as single, even when we’re not. Our government forces us to lie, and charges us more for the privilege."