The latest iteration of the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social spending plan could give a significant tax break to some gay married couples.
According to a summary of the current version of the Build Back Better Act, which was released November 3rd, the new plan would let same-sex couples who were legally married under state law before 2010 file amended tax returns for years as early as 2004, in order to claim federal tax benefits that are unavailable under current rules.
The basis of the current gap in tax rules relating to same-sex couples dates to a 2013 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Windsor, which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. That prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages, and denied same-sex couples who were married under state law a litany of federal benefits, including taxes.
In the wake of the Windsor case, the IRS issued guidance that let taxpayers amend their tax returns with respect to their marital status, but only generally back to 2010. However, same-sex marriage was legal in five states before 2010; Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. California also allowed same-sex marriage for a period in 2008, before voters passed a ban later that year.
The Pew Research Center estimates that more than 30,000 same-sex marriages were registered in the U.S. before 2010, with most of those in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
If the Democrats’ Build Back Better plan passes with the marriage tax revision intact, it would enable same-sex couples who were legally married before 2010 to file a joint federal return as a married couple, and claim refunds and credits that may result in a net tax benefit.
Democratic lawmakers hope to pass the current iteration of the spending plan through the U.S. House later this week, but its ultimate version is still unknown.
Couples who would most likely benefit from the new rules would be those in which one spouse is a high earner, and the other has little to no income, according to NBC.