- Days left

Amending Tax Returns for Same-Sex Couples

It's worthwhile to calculate whether you'd come out ahead as married filing jointly on past federal tax returns.

Same Sex Couple Gets Married
Alamy
By Kimberly Lankford

Is it worth the hassle for legally married same-sex couples to amend old tax returns to claim the "married filing jointly" status?

If you were legally married anywhere that sanctioned such unions in 2010, 2011 or 2012, you have the option to amend your federal tax returns from those years to file jointly rather than as two single filers.

You aren't required to amend the returns, but it's worthwhile to calculate whether you'd come out ahead as joint filers, especially if there's a big difference in your incomes. "When there is a disparity in income, especially if you have a nonworking spouse, there will be a benefit," says Jean Nelsen, an enrolled agent in San Francisco. (Enrolled agents are licensed to represent taxpayers before the IRS.) If both spouses work and have similar incomes, they are likely to be hit with the "marriage penalty," she says, providing little or no benefit to amending the returns. And if both spouses have capital losses or rental real estate losses, deductions for those losses can be limited when couples file joint returns. Nelsen also points out that if one spouse has adopted the other spouse's children, he or she would lose the adoption credit with an amended return.
Advertisement

TurboTax can help you run the numbers with its free TurboTax DOMA TaxCaster tool.

You have until April 15, 2014, to amend a 2010 return; until April 15, 2015, to amend a 2011 return; and until April 15, 2016, to amend a 2012 return.
You need to file a Form 1040X for each year you are amending a return. Nelsen says the procedure is to choose one of the returns that was previously filed as single and use those numbers as the "previously filed amounts" required on the amended return, and add the other spouse's numbers in the adjustment column.

"Document, document, document," she says. "The more information you can give the IRS as to why you are doing the amended return, the better." Include details about the change in filing status in the explanation of changes section of the amended return. For more information, see the IRS's Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law.

Federal tax returns filed by legally married same-sex couples on Sept. 16, 2013, or later must generally be filed as married. That includes 2012 returns with an extension that had not been filed by that date, as well as federal returns for 2013 and later.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.


More from Kiplinger


Learn about investing from the comfort of your own home.

Portfolio Basics

Take the first steps to building your portfolio.

View Course »

Investment Strategies

Learn the strategies you need to build a winning portfolio

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

Most of us are looking for ways to pay no more than we owe in taxes, or even boost our tax refunds. Here are five strategies that go beyond the obvious with tried-and-true ways to reduce your tax liability.

What, Me Worry? Last Minute Taxes

According to the Internal Revenue Service, 20-25% of all Americans wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to prepare their tax returns. At that late date, there are only two things you can do: File your taxes pronto, or request a tax extension.

Can't File by the Deadline? Top 3 Reasons to File a Tax Extension

The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to file for a 6-month extension if they need more time to prepare their tax return. You can obtain a tax extension for any reason; the IRS grants them automatically as long as you complete the proper form on time. Check your state tax laws; some states accept IRS extensions while others require you to file a separate state extension form.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum