Are Same-Sex Marriages Treated Equally for Federal Tax Purposes?

Posted by: Adair M. Buckner

Employers must treat same-sex marriages like other marriages for Federal Tax purposes.

same sex stick figures holding hands in front of government building
IRS Ruling Affecting Employers

The IRS has issued a ruling (IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-17) that employees who were legally married in places that recognize same-sex marriage are entitled to the same federal tax treatment as traditional married employees, regardless of whether the state in which they live or are employed recognizes the marriage as legal.  This means any tax issue that is related to marital status, such as exemptions claimed (personal and dependents), filing status, claiming standard deduction, treatment and provision of employee benefits, and IRA contributions.  
What Employers Must Do Right Away

The IRS ruling requires that employers take action by September 16, 2013 to:
  1. Treat same-sex couples as married for payroll tax calculations, including taxation of employer group health insurance and other employee benefits;
  2. Treat same-sex employees spouse as a spouse for payment of death benefits and survivor annuity under qualified retirement plans.

Only Legally Recognized Same-Sex Marriages Are Covered

The IRS ruling does not apply to civil unions, registered domestic partnerships, or other such same-sex relationships under state laws.

IRS Unanswered Questions About Same-Sex Marriages.

The IRS did not yet answer whether it will require retroactive application of this ruling to benefit and retirement plans, or whether employers must retroactively alter tax and benefit treatment of same-sex marriages, but said it will issue guidance on this later. 

To learn more about Adair and her practice visit her profile page and her Labor & Employment Law page.

Adair M. Buckner, Attorney at Law, is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Her other areas of practice include business law, business disputes, commercial litigation, estate planning, and probate. You can reach Adair at (806)-220-0150 or This material is not intended to be legal advice. The contents are intended for general information purposes only.


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