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Married same-sex couples can file joint federal tax returns

Same-sex marriages are on the rise in Washington since state laws were changed to permit same-sex couples to marry three years ago. Federal income tax rules also apply to same-sex marriages registered in states or foreign countries with laws that make same-sex marriages legal.

Since the tax year 2013, same-sex married couples can file a federal tax return using a "married filing jointly" or "separately" status. Same-sex couples can jointly file federal tax returns even if they live in a state which does not legally recognize same-sex marriages. A same-sex partner of a tax payer is no longer considered a dependent for federal tax purposes.

Only one spouse of a same-sex couple can claim a deduction for a child, if a couple is filing separate tax returns, provided the child qualifies as a tax dependent. If both parents claim the same child, then the parent with whom the child was residing for most of the tax year will be allowed the deduction.

Business services performed by a spouse are not considered employment and therefore a sole proprietor of a business can claim a refund for taxes paid on the wages paid to his or her same-sex partner as an employee of the business. Same-sex couples who operate co-owned and managed unincorporated businesses can have those businesses qualify as joint ventures to avoid federal taxation as a partnership.

To meet federal tax laws for qualified retirement plans, the same-sex couple must be married in a state where same-sex marriages are legal and the same-sex partner is identified as a spouse. Couples registered as domestic partners or who have civil unions are not identified as spouses, per the rules of qualified retirement plans.

All federal tax laws applicable to married couples are also usually applicable to same-sex married couples. If you are newly married same-sex couple residing in Washington and contemplating filing a federal tax return jointly, you might want to get more information in order to get a better understanding of federal tax rules.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law," Accessed on June 12, 2015

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