It's that time of the year again when Americans across the nation receive their tax documents in the mail with all the joy of a jury summons and discover that half of them are STILL missing, Scream at their computer screens while trying to navigate clunky and down right byzantine tax prep software, and watch the calendar with mounting dread. For many of us Tax day means the annual migration to the post office at 5 minutes before closing for the great convocation of chronic procrastinators. However, you do get them done, it is generally a pain in the keister for everyone. However...if your gay and partnered in some legal form, the government has several ingenious ways to screw us even more. For most gay couples doing our taxes has never been simple..the Defense of Marriage Act sees to that...but this year the government has invented some new ways to drum up extra cash and again let us know that they don't regard LGBT couples as equal to our heterosexual counterparts.
so we found out when we began this years tax odyssey...
As I said, the IRS has never treated gay couples in a manner that affords recognition or even dignity of gay people We have always had to find creative ways to work within a system that just does not account for us. In previous years, this meant that My husband had to claim me as a dependant along with the kids. It wasn't a perfect solution and it demotes my relationship to him to something akin to an unemployed squatter....However, Jay being employed and me a stay-at-home parent there was really no better way to handle it. This was how it worked from year to year. BUT...last year, for our own curiosity we had the tax preparer calculate how much we would have gotten back if we had been able to file as a married couple. The answer turned out to be an approximate $4000 dollars more. Thank you so much DOMA and state sanctioned discrimination..../sarcasm off. This year it got a whole lot more complicated...and many of us could take a bigger financial hit.
My husband Jay is very conscientious when it comes to tax filing. As soon as the documents come in the mail, he's down at the tax preparers taking care of business. Everything was ticking along like normal until it we were informed that, since we were a gay couple, we were not able to Efile.....What?...o.k. fine....We mailed in out return and dug in for the long wait. Eventually we were informed that our return had been rejected because of a handful of new tax rules for gay couples..."oh crap", we thought...hearing back from the IRS after filing is usually not a good thing. What did they want? Well, We were informed that we would have to refile because...the government now requires legally married gay couples to combine their reportable income and then split it evenly between them. Both partners then file as single and report half of the income. Wow...seriously? This is how they dance around our status? It seemed an utterly lame solution that only further exacerbates discrimination of gay couples in taxation.
For a family like ours in which there is only one income and dependants...it worked to our benefit. Combining his income and my nothing between us halved my husbands taxable income and each of us got to claim one of our children as a dependant. For once, the tax system had come through for us....however....and here's the big BUT....What about couples with two incomes and no dependants? Adding up their income means paying taxes on a MUCH higher amount of money for each person. It is not fair taxation in that it places a a larger tax on an individual than he or she has earned and still does not provide parity with heterosexual couples who can file jointly. It is amounts to another very unwelcome financial hit that many of us just cannot absorb these days.
In addition, the experience of refiling was ridiculous. They required that I use my husbands W-2 form to report the income they attributed to me. This strikes me as wrong in that this document is not mine. It's issued to my husband's social security number and is in no way legally linked to me other than through my marriage. You know...the one which the federal government does not recognize. They consider us as separate, non related individuals, so why would I use someone else's tax documents to report income I did not earn myself if I am not legally related to that person? In addition, filing an amendment to our taxes required an additional $600 in preparation fees and we were still required to snail-mail it in. I would also put dollars to donuts that the IRS will scrutinize these returns very closely. IF the government does not shut down for lack of a budget it will still be a very, very long time before we see a refund.
Is all this really worth it to put a band aid over that fact that DOMA is unconstitutional? To me it seems like taking the hoops we were jumping through before, lighting them on fire, and suspending them over a shark tank. Is it any wonder why gay people are crying foul?
Frustration over the governments willingness to take our money while denying us our civil rights has led many to calls for protest actions. Some have advocated not paying taxes until the government acknowledges our relationships. Others advocate claiming a married status and filing jointly as a form of protest even though this is illegal. Both tactics have some very serious repercussions...namely heavy fines and possible prison time. Now while some people have the nerve for that...I don't. But there is another way...
It has been suggested to me that you file your taxes exactly as the new rules require and send it off...then, file an amendment to your return in which you file as a married couple. The IRS will accept your correct return first and reject the amended version. How does this help you ask?...It creates an important paper trail. When DOMA finally does fall and the government recognizes same-sex marriages, you will have a tax record going back that you tried to file according to your actual status as a married couple and were denied..therefore you could be entitled to the additional monies you would have been entitled to. Depending on how long it takes to repeal DOMA...that could really add up. As an example, even though our family dodged the combined income bullet this year, had we been able to file as married we would still have received another $2000 refund. Drag that out over a few years and thousands of married gay couples and the pentagon won't be able to buy toilet paper for a month. (**Disclaimer....Please remember I am not a tax professional nor a tax law expert, I am just a humble blogger passing along information I found helpfull. Please verify for yourself before engaging in any form of tax protest.)
Got a tax horror story? We want to know! leave a comment and let us know how being gay has affected your tax status.
Until next time dear readers....