Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lambda Legal Releases Tax Guide Following IRS Acknowledgment of California's Same-Sex Couples

Last week Lambda Legal published a helpful guide to help taxpayers and tax preparers in California with a recent IRS tax law change that applies to thousands of legally married same-sex couples, as well as registered domestic partners in California. Check out the following snippet from their press release, or click here for the full text.

The change, announced earlier this year by the Internal Revenue Service, applies to California's registered domestic partners (RDPs) and also may apply to the state's estimated 18,000 legally married same-sex couples, as well as registered domestic partners in Nevada and Washington. In a change from the approach taken by the Bush Administration, the IRS will now recognize the jointly owned community property income earned by California RDPs, the same way it long has done for different-sex married couples who file separate federal income tax returns. Recognition of "community income" means couples each will report half of their combined income on their separate returns -- called "income-splitting" -- which can mean big savings for couples with wide disparities in income.

"This change represents one more good step in the direction of treating same-sex couples who have formalized their relationship under state law the same as married different-sex couples are treated," said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. "The problem addressed by this new policy highlights what marriage discrimination means – an endless stream of sometimes small inequalities that often end up costing same-sex couples real dollars as well as their dignity. But let's be clear – while this is welcome progress towards our community's goal of full legal equality for same-sex couples, the IRS still won't allow us to file a joint tax return or otherwise respect our family relationships, and federal law as a whole still discriminates against us in countless serious ways. This is a small step, but it's a good one."

The document is entitled "The IRS Applies 'Income-Splitting' Community Property Treatment to California's Registered Domestic Partners: Preliminary Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions." It was prepared by Pizer, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Peter C. Renn and tax attorneys at the prestigious Irell & Manella law firm in Los Angeles, with consultation by Wendy E. Hartmann of the Bennett & Erdman law firm, also in Los Angeles, who specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples.

To download Lambda Legal's FAQ explaining the new IRS position about registered domestic partners' community property rights, please go to: www.lambdalegal.org/ttp-community-property.

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