IRS Clarifies Laws for Employers Regarding Same Sex Marriage

In 2013, the IRS attempted to clarify the tax filing status of same-sex couples by saying that couples who were married in states that legalized same sex marriage were considered a legally married couple for tax purposes. The problem with the tax statute is that it still left a lot gray area when it came to civil unions and what to do if same sex couples moved to a state that did not recognize gay marriage. In October 2015, the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury clarified the entire situation in terms that employers could easily understand.

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Married Couples Are Married Couples

According to, the IRS and Department of the Treasury used the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the country to declare that same-sex couples now get the same marital status as opposite-sex couples. This allows employers to be able to apply the proper tax status to same-sex spouses, and it also allows administrators of retirement plans and health insurance plans to be able to treat same-sex couples in the same way they would opposite sex couples.

The Wording Is A Little More Specific

According to, the entire situation has been clarified even further by the introduction of the word “spouse” to go along with “wife” and “husband.” In the past, it was confusing for plan administrators and employers because the designation of spouse was not available. This forced same-sex couples that could be legally recognized for tax purposes to determine their own designations within the relationship. Thanks to the clarification, that is no longer necessary.

Separation Of Marriage And Unions

Civil unions and domestic partnerships are nothing new and not exclusive to same sex couples. Opposite sex couples have been using these designations when they wanted to be able to submit their tax filings as single people. However, same-sex couples had been forced to use these designations in some states because same sex marriage was not yet legalized.

The IRS has now clarified that same-sex couples who are still in civil unions or domestic partnerships are not granted joint tax status under this new provision. Because same sex couples can now marry in any state, these couples must choose whether to drop their civil union status and get married, or continue to keep their tax filing statuses separate.

When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, the tax implications had not been addressed. Two years later, the IRS and Department of the Treasury have finally gotten together to deliver updated guidelines that now make it easier on employers and plan administrators to designate same-sex couples properly, and make it easier for same-sex couples to enjoy the same tax status that opposite-sex couples have. These are major developments that will make filing taxes easier for companies and workers throughout the country.

How can recruiters highlight these changes to attract more diverse talent?

George N Root III is a professional freelance writer who has expertise in topics such as Internet marketing, business, advertising, and personal finance.

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