The issues around marriage equality caused lots of debate, but it was federal tax laws that finally prompted the Supreme Court to take a look. Prior to the 2013 United States v. Windsor decision, same-sex couples who were legally married in states or countries that recognized their union were unable to take advantage of certain federal benefits. For example, individuals in same-sex marriages were ineligible for the insurance benefits of their spouses who worked in government, and they could not receive social security survivor’s benefits or file joint tax returns.
The 2013 United States v. Windsor decision and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decisions changed these practices, and LGBT couples became eligible for federal tax savings that were previously unavailable. Certified Tax Coaches offer a comprehensive look at making the most of these programs to enjoy greater tax savings.
Choosing Your Filing Status
The first tax-related issue to consider after you are married is how you will file your returns. Depending on your income, “married filing separately” could offer larger savings than “married filing jointly”. There is a phenomenon knows as “the marriage penalty”. This references the tax increase that many couples face when filing joint returns versus single returns.
Tax specialists can assist with significantly reducing tax liability through a combination of smart financial planning, examination of the impact of each filing status, and a review of all possible deductions. Filing status is expected to be particularly relevant for the 2018 tax year, as new tax regulations with revised tax brackets may reduce or eliminate the marriage penalty.
Quick Tips to Avoid Tax Filing Pitfalls
Completing your tax returns after you are married is not necessarily more complicated than filing as single, but there are a few differences to keep in mind. Small errors can lead to major frustration if your returns are rejected or you have to file an amended form. These are the most common pitfalls – and how to avoid them:
- You must either choose “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately”. Other filing statuses are not permitted, including “head of household”. (Note: There is an exception available for married couples who have lived apart for six months or more.)
- Your spouse cannot be listed as your dependent.
- If you choose “married filing separately”, only one spouse can claim each dependent child.
- Married couples must choose the same option with regard to itemizing deductions versus claiming the standard deduction. Your Certified Tax Coach can provide the guidance you need to complete your returns correctly.
New Options for Reducing Estate Taxes
The underlying issue that prompted United States v. Windsor was the application of federal estate tax regulations. In short, married couples pay far less when a spouse dies than they would if no marriage existed. The individual who brought the suit wanted the same benefits as married couples who are opposite-sex. Today, all married couples can enjoy the tax savings that come with careful estate planning. Your Certified Tax Coach is an excellent resource for putting a tax minimization strategy in place to protect your wealth after one partner passes away.
For more tips on how LGBT couples can increase tax savings, visit us by working with a Certified Tax Coach.