The IRS announced Thursday that it will recognize all legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where the couple lives. This will save lesbian and gay couples anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks on tax preparation to hundreds of thousands on estate taxes.
If you're a same-sex couple, your state return could still be complicated if you live in one of the 37 states that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, including my home state of Michigan, where the law treats being attracted to the same sex as a frightening and undeserving lifestyle choice, much like rooting for Ohio State football.
Start saving on taxes now
Regardless of where you live, you needn't wait until April 15 to start cutting their federal tax bills.You can begin with your next paycheck, and even claw back a big chunk of dough from past years.
First, hit the nifty tax withholding calculator at http://www.IRS.gov, get the last few pay stubs for you and your spouse, and recalculate your paycheck withholding to put extra cash in your take-home pay now. If you grab last year's tax return, you can fill out the calculator in more detail and get a more accurate estimate.
Your second move can be even better. If you have been same-sex married for a while, file amended returns going as far back as 2010, and you can get a nice lump-sum refund for the taxatious hell you endured filing separate returns. According to the civil rights group Human Rights Campaign, same-sex couples pay, on average, more than $1,000 a year in additional taxes, so this is worth doing.
X marks the refund
You'll have to file a paper 1040X form, but you can fill out an online PDF at the IRS website, and then print and mail it. Refer to your original return, since you use the same info, just a different tax table. You only have to fill it out up to line 22 because you're only changing your filing status. And if you ask your original tax preparer to do the chore, it shouldn't cost a lot.
While it's nice to cut your taxes and even get cash back, it doesn't make up for the unfortunate and wrongheaded view some people have of same-sex marriage. Still, it's nice to know that, even though your Aunt Edna still disapproves of your sexuality, it's just fine with your Uncle Sam.
(Brian J. O'Connor is an award-winning columnist for The Detroit News. His book, "The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese," is a humorous guide to budget cutting. Pre-order at http://www.funnymoney.com or contact him at email@example.com.)