Thursday's ruling by federal officials marks an historic turn for same-sex couples married in states that recognize their union. These couples will now be treated as married for federal tax purposes, no matter where they choose to live. Gay rights advocates applaud the ruling, but it could lead to complications at the state and local level.
The ruling will implement federal tax aspects of a June 26th Supreme Court decision that invalidated key provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
"Today's ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. "This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change."
For same-sex couples, this means that they will be treated as married for all federal taxes, including income, gift and estate taxes. Legally married same-sex couples must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" filing status. It is important to note that this ruling will not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.