Bigstock-happy-smiling-gay-couple-7146773Now that the Supreme Court has issued its landmark ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex couples should be hammering out joint financial plans, much like those that heterosexual pairs create when they marry. The plus side is that same-sex married couples nationwide are now afforded benefits that can lower the cost of health care and cut taxes. But it's still not a completely level playing field: While 19 states recognized same-sex unions, as of the end of May 2014, 31 still didn’t. The rift means that couples must take special precautions to have the right estate and emergency-health care legal documents in place – and often on hand.

A recent Investopedia recent article, titled "Must-Do Financial Moves For Same-Sex Marriages," advises you need to make sure you and your partner have reviewed where you stand on several issues, whether you're already married or are planning to soon.

The IRS made it clear only weeks after the Supreme Court decision came down: On a federal level, same-sex marriages now get the tax benefits and, in many cases, the biggest headaches that come with tying the knot. The good news is that same-sex couples now enjoy many of the privileges that were previously out of reach. They include:

  • Employee benefits, such as employee health insurance, can be shared tax-free and are no longer treated as taxable compensation;
  • It’s now possible to use one spouse’s loss—investments, income or others—to offset the other spouse’s gains;
  • Couples with a large gap in incomes—when one spouse stays home to tend to children while the other works—can also potentially lock in a lower tax rate on a joint return (the “marriage benefit”); and
  • Federal estate taxes no longer apply to assets that pass to one spouse when the other dies, up to a threshold of just over $5 million.

The change also makes it possible to file amended forms for up to three years back to claim refunds, Investopedia notes. You may now be eligible for taxes you paid for health coverage or marriage benefit breaks you previously missed out on, if you were married and based upon on how you filed. You may also have grounds to file for a refund on federal estate taxes you paid on what you inherited from your same-sex spouse—provided you were married.

These new guidelines mean you may find yourself experiencing the marriage penalty, especially if both earn high incomes. California recognizes same-sex marriage. In addition, if you live in a state that doesn’t recognize your marriage and whose taxes do not conform to federal guidelines, you may have to file your federal return under one status and your state return under another. 

Reference: Investopedia (June 3, 2014) "Must-Do Financial Moves For Same-Sex Marriages"

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