So, this DOMA thing has finally gone away. There we are, wondering what will change for those of us in states that don’t honor same-sex marriage.
There are a bunch of people who have postulated about the “benefits and challenges” that same sex marrieds will now have, but everyone is avoiding the BIG QUESTION:
How is this going to affect me in the wallet?
There are a few scenarios –
First, regardless whether you live in an enlightened state that has conferred marriage equality before the Supremes decided that gender was a bad standard for determining who could be married, your marriage is V-A-L-I-D. Even here in the Reddest, baddest state of them all, the Great State o’ Texas, your marriage is valid. Our next governor will fight it until capital punishment is abolished, but according to the Federal government, you are a married person, period.
Now, that brings with it some quite unfamiliar constraints with respect to filing your taxes.
You MUST file as a married couple for 2013. After all, you ARE married. You may file one of two ways – Married, filing jointly, or Married, filing separately.
Generally speaking, if your ardor for your spouse hasn’t faded and you’re still living together, you are required to file Married, filing jointly.
The cool thing about that is - well, there are several. There is also a downside. I’ll try to make that as clear as I can.
The first cool thing is that the Social Security tax caps apply to your combined income. For many same-sex marrieds, that’s going to reduce your social security tax, and reduce the tax collected from your paycheck when you hit the cap.
The next cool thing is that your Social Security calculations will be combined. Your spouse’s earnings with Social Security are going to count toward you, and if you’re self-employed and your spouse is employed this is going to benefit you in a huge way.
The third cool thing is that married couples get better health insurance from their employers than domestic partners do. That can also reduce your out-of-pocket expenses because the co-pays are combined and the insurance premiums are reduced. When combined with the Affordable Care Act, this could result in significant savings for your household - in excess of several hundred dollars a month.
Now for a downside - many same-sex marrieds are employed and have fairly high incomes. You’re now going to be subject to the “marriage penalty,” where one or both of you will see a higher income tax rate. However, this is offset by an increase in the amount of standard deduction and itemized deductions.
If one of you is self-employed and reports a fairly low income and the other is employed and has a pretty high income, you may want to uncork the champagne. Your combined tax return could bring you startling reductions in your taxable income and tax burden. Your health insurance for the self-employed partner could see health insurance premiums fall off of a cliff. That, plus the self-employed partner is going to get a much higher contribution to the Social Security Trust Fund recorded because of their spouse.
Okay, how does that translate into action items?
First, you need to be prepared to adjust your W-4 withholding allowances statement with your employer. At the very least, you need to re-file that W-4 right away as “married.” Check the IRS video I posted on my site (URL?) that walks you through completing your W-4.
Second, you may want to forecast for what your combined return will look like for 2014. Any decent tax preparer can help you with that, but you should absolutely use me because I’m in the community; I’m quick, clear, and effective; and I’m funnier than any other tax guy you’ll meet.
Third, you could consider amending your returns going back as far as three years (to 2011) if you were married that long ago. Any decent tax preparer could help you see whether that’s a benefit for you, but if you’re the second kind of same-sex married (remember? One self-employed, one biggie paycheck) you should ABSOLUTELY amend and collect for yourself a nice, fat retroactive refund.
I would love to help you figure this out, so you should email me, tweet me, call me or something and JOIN THE REST OF SOCIETY in being normal.
I think this is the coolest thing since I’ve been alive.