Metro Weekly

Sen. Warren’s bill would allow gay couples to recoup back taxes

Refund Equality Act entitles gay and lesbian couples to receive tax refunds for years they couldn't file jointly

Sen. Elizabeth Warren – Photo: U.S. Department of Labor.

A new bill introduced in Congress today would allow married same-sex couples to recoup the money they lost when they were forced to file their taxes as single individuals.

The Refund Equality Act, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and in the House by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), would allow same-sex couples who were legally married prior to June 2013 to file amended tax returns going back to the date of their marriage.

“For nearly a decade, legally married same-sex couples had to file their taxes as single persons, often paying more taxes than they would owe if they could file as married,” Warren said in a statement. “This bill is a simple fix to allow same-sex couples to claim the tax refunds they earned but were denied because of who they love.”

The 2013 Windsor decision by the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and required that, going forward, same-sex couples be treated equally to heterosexual couples when it comes to relationship recognition, including the ability to file joint tax returns.

But under the current Tax Code, couples who previously filed their taxes separately can only file amended joint returns dating back three years.

Another provision only allows a couple to receive a refund of any money they’ve overpaid in taxes within three years of the time the return was filed.

Because the IRS currently lacks the authority to amend those restrictions, the Warren-Neal bill would change those provisions and allow married gay and lesbian couples to recoup their losses for the decade that spanned in between the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and the Windsor decision.

The bill particularly pertains to gay and lesbian couples who were married in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.

Warren’s office estimates that couples married in those states prior to 2013 are owed about $67 million in refunds from the IRS.

The measure has the support of 29 Democratic senators and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and 39 members of the House of Representatives.

“All legally married couples in this country deserve to be treated equally,” Neal said in a statement. “This bill would codify into law an important correction that would enable same-sex married couples to go back and claim the tax refunds and credits for which they qualify.

“The Supreme Court has ruled as such, and now it’s time for Congress to act and make sure all Americans are treated with the fairness and equality they deserve under the law.”


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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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