Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
Same-Sex Newlyweds Discover Taxes Are a Headache
Monday, April 09, 2012
Thousands of gay and lesbian couples have wed since New York made same-sex marriage legal last summer. But for these newlyweds, the not-so-fun part has now come: filing taxes just became a lot more arduous.
"It's more complex, it's more time, and it's usually more money," said Tina Salandra, a Manhattan accountant with a largely gay and lesbian clientele.
Because federal law does not recognize marriages consisting of two husbands or two wives, same-sex couples must declare themselves single on their federal returns.
But state law requires that they file as married.
As a consequence, every same-sex married couple in New York state will file at least three returns (two separate federal returns as single, and one state return as married). There are 2,335 same-sex couples who got married in New York state after the law changed last year.
Salandra said some clients complete as many as seven returns to determine whether they should file on the state level as married-joint or married-separate.
Additionally, some filers with dependent children may choose head-of-household status on their federal returns, a designation that is only available to unmarried people.
Salandra said every factor that can complicate a straight couple's tax returns - having children, changing jobs or selling a home or stock - is magnified for gay and lesbian pairs.
"It has been the topic of our conversation at least for the past two weeks, almost every day," said Kamdyn Moore, a graphic designer who married girlfriend Tomara Aldrich last summer, in an outdoor ceremony beside a mountain lake in Vermont.
Moore, 28, said it was the best day of her life.
She didn't give much thought to the tax implications of married life until starting an electronic tax-filing program earlier this year.
The very first question was about marital status. Moore skipped "married" and chose "in a same-sex marriage." After more than a dozen hours spent on a joint return, Moore and Aldrich are still not certain they've done it right.
So does Moore regret getting legally married, instead of having a commitment ceremony?
"Absolutely not. It is amazing being married. It feels absolutely beautiful. I say to friends, I highly recommend it," Moore said.