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Questions remain regarding federal same-sex benefits

Although same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts and in 12 other states, many people are waiting for a final decision from the IRS regarding tax and Social Security benefits after the Supreme Court voted to end the Defense of Marriage Act in June. People in 37 other states are in limbo as they wait to see how the IRS will address tax matters, such as tax refund claims. Although DOMA has been repealed, the exact application of that ruling is still unclear.

Justice Kennedy, who ruled with the majority, said that the decision applies and is limited to legal marriages. However, government rules vary when it comes to defining a legal marriage. Some agencies view the marriage according to the laws of the state where the couples live while others look at the laws of the state where the couple married. Justice Scalia further elaborated on this example in his dissent. President Obama has advocated for following the laws of the state where the couple wed, and gay rights advocates concur with his views.

A group of gay rights agencies warned people that the repeal of DOMA did not mean that any state must honor their same-sex marriage. They added that the couples might not receive federal benefits available to married couples. The federal Office of Personnel Management has declared that any legally married same-sex couple will receive health and retirement benefits no matter where the couple wed or currently resides. However, other agencies, such as Social Security and the IRS, are still trying to make those decisions.

The courts still haven't resolved many of the questions that relate to same-sex marriages as they continue to unravel the issues that surround these relationships. A tax attorney might be able to help same-sex couples with their tax questions.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Married same-sex couples uncertain about their taxes", David G. Savage, July 06, 2013

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