Biglaw, Gay, Gay Marriage, Google / Search Engines, Perks / Fringe Benefits, Tax Law

Biglaw Perk Watch: Google’s Gay Gross-Up

It’s good to be gay at Google — or a “Gaygler,” as they call themselves. And not just because the company sometimes has a float in the San Francisco Pride parade.

The New York Times recently reported:

[Last] Thursday, Google [began] covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.

“It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,” said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of “Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.”

Why do gay and lesbian employees pay more in taxes to begin with?

Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners are counted as taxable income, if the partner is not considered a dependent. The tax owed is based on the value of the partner’s coverage paid by the employer.

Federal law is less than fabulous when it comes to treatment of gays and lesbians. There’s this little thing called DOMA, you see….

So how much are we talking about?

On average, employees with domestic partners will pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes than a married employee with the same coverage, according to a 2007 report by M. V. Lee Badgett, director of the Williams Institute, a research group that studies sexual orientation policy issues.

So Google is essentially going to cover those costs, putting same-sex couples on an even footing with heterosexual employees whose spouses and families receive health benefits.

Good for Google — and, of course, the other companies and organizations that have this policy. They include Cisco, Kimpton Hotels and the Gates Foundation.

Here’s the question for ATL readers: Are you aware of any law firms that do what Google does? We’ve heard a rumor of at least one major New York firm with a sizable LGBT contingent that does, but we haven’t confirmed it yet.

If you have information, please leave it in the comments, or email us (subject line: “Gay Gross-Up”). Thanks.

UPDATE: To read our latest coverage of this issue, click here.

Google to Add Pay to Cover a Tax for Same-Sex Benefits [New York Times]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments