Same Sex Marriage

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law

The following questions and answers provide information to individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married (same-sex spouses). These questions and answers reflect the holdings in Revenue Ruling 2013-17 in 2013-38 IRB 201.

Q1. When are individuals of the same sex lawfully married for federal tax purposes?

A1. For federal tax purposes, the IRS looks to state or foreign law to determine whether individuals are married. The IRS has a general rule recognizing a marriage of same-sex spouses that was validly entered into in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex even if the married couple resides in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.

Q2. Can same-sex spouses file federal tax returns using a married filing jointly or married filing separately status?

A2. Yes. For tax year 2013 and going forward, same-sex spouses generally must file using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax year 2012 and all prior years, same-sex spouses who file an original tax return on or after Sept. 16, 2013 (the effective date of Rev. Rul. 2013-17), generally must file using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax year 2012, same-sex spouses who filed their tax return before Sept. 16, 2013, may choose (but are not required) to amend their federal tax returns to file using married filing separately or jointly filing status. For tax years 2011 and earlier, same-sex spouses who filed their tax returns timely may choose (but are not required) to amend their federal tax returns to file using married filing separately or jointly filing status provided the period of limitations for amending the return has not expired. A taxpayer generally may file a claim for refund for three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. For information on filing an amended return, go to Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc308.html

Q3. Can a taxpayer and his or her same-sex spouse file a joint return if they were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages but they live in a state that does not recognize their marriage?

A3. Yes. For federal tax purposes, the IRS has a general rule recognizing a marriage of same-sex individuals that was validly entered into in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex even if the married couple resides in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. The rules for using a married filing jointly or married filing separately status described in Q&A #2 apply to these married individuals. 

Q4. Can a taxpayer’s same-sex spouse be a dependent of the taxpayer?

A4. No. A taxpayer’s spouse cannot be a dependent of the taxpayer.

Q5. Can a same-sex spouse file using head of household filing status?

A5. A taxpayer who is married cannot file using head of household filing status. However, a married taxpayer may be considered unmarried and may use the head-of-household filing status if the taxpayer lives apart from his or her spouse for the last 6 months of the taxable year and provides more than half the cost of maintaining a household that is the principal place of abode of the taxpayer’s dependent child for more than half of the year. See Publication 501 for more details.


(more)