Refund Equality Act Would Permit Same-Sex Couples To Submit Amended Returns Dating Back To Year Of Marriage
U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced the Refund Equality Act of 2017, which would update the federal tax code to ensure that legally-married same-sex couples — who until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly — are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.
“There is no reason that legally married couples shouldn’t be able to file taxes jointly and receive the full tax refund they have earned, but same-sex couples have been barred from doing just that for nearly a decade,” said Udall in a press release. “This is a commonsense bill to make sure same-sex couples are granted the same tax rights as every other married couple and can receive the tax credits and refunds they have been entitled to. The Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, and Congress must ensure our laws reflect that.”
Before the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, a same-sex married couple could not file federal income taxes as a married couple because the Defense of Marriage Act prevented the federal government from recognizing the marriage. After Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service published guidance that clarified the IRS’s recognition of same-sex marriages, and stated that married same-sex couples could amend previously-filed tax returns to claim refunds or credits due as a result of corrected marital status.
Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating back up to three years, and the IRS lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, and without a legislative fix, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor — including Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. — are unable to claim refunds for years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $67 million in refunds to which they are entitled.
“All legally married couples in New Mexico deserve to be treated equally, and must be afforded the same protections under the law,” said Heinrich. “It is unacceptable that our tax code prevents many same-sex couples from claiming the tax refund they earned. This bill is an important step in the right direction in ensuring equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.”
The legislation is led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.). A PDF of the bill is available here.