CRF Blog

Gays and Taxes

by Bill Hayes

In My Big Gay Tax Return, a Bloomberg Businessweek feature story, John Cloud reports on how the Supreme Court’s striking down the Defense of Marriage Act has affected some gay taxpayers.

In the weeks after the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court decision gutting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the 1996 law that barred any federal recognition of same-sex relationships — gay Americans exulted in pride parades around the country, with placards, buttons, and even underwear declaring “Ding Dong DOMA’s Dead.” But the most consequential response to the ruling came from an unlikely source: the Internal Revenue Service. On Aug. 29, the IRS said spouses in legal gay marriages could refile tax returns as joint couples for up to three years after their weddings. For some, the change would potentially mean thousands of dollars in refunds.

For taxpayers such as Evan Wolfson, however, IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-17 has prompted more ambivalence than elation. The 56-year-old Wolfson is the Harvard-educated attorney who runs Freedom to Marry, the leading organization advocating gay-straight equality in marriage laws. He helped devise the strategy that led to United States v. Windsor, the decision refuting DOMA. He not only has co-authored crucial legal briefs supporting gay marriage, he’s helped conceive many of the political tactics used in the 2012 elections to change the direction of the debate. [more]