Federal Government, Gay, Gay Marriage, Lesbians, Money, Quote of the Day, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Tax Law

Good News For Divorce Lawyers, Bad News For Tax Lawyers?

It’s just been confusing. We’ll just be glad to do our taxes just like any other family.

Andrew Cohen, a lawyer in New York who married his husband last year, discussing one effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

(Additional DOMA discussion, after the jump.)

Cohen was quoted in this interesting Los Angeles Times article, by Andrew Tangel and Alana Semuels, about the implications of the DOMA decision for married same-sex couples:

[Cohen and his husband, Christopher Michaud,] had to hire an accountant to help them navigate the tax labyrinth facing gay couples. For last year’s federal returns, they filed single because the government didn’t recognize their marriage. They filed New York taxes as married because the state recognizes the marriage, but then were required to include a pretend joint federal filing.

They have it relatively easy, since they married in New York and live in New York, and married just last year. Other couples face greater complications:

A key issue, according to administration officials, is how to treat couples who married in a state that recognizes same-sex unions but who live in a state that does not. “If you’ve been married in Massachusetts, and you move somewhere else, you’re still married,” Obama said, but added that he was “speaking as a president, not a lawyer.”

Among the major tax questions facing married gay couples: Will the Internal Revenue Service allow married gay and lesbian couples to amend previous tax returns, which could enable some couples to get refunds from past years? And will federal programs benefit married same-sex couples even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage?

There are numerous other implications, relating to Social Security, health insurance benefits, and taxation of jointly owned residences. Check out the full story for more details.

From the perspective of the legal profession, the rise of gay marriage will help some practice areas, such as matrimonial and family law, and possibly hurt others, such as tax law. But in the end, the DOMA decision is about much more than dollars and cents. The L.A. Times article closes with comment from another married gay lawyer in New York, Adam Teicholz: “For most of us, in reality, the question of being treated like equal citizens was more important than the tax question.”

After gay marriage ruling, same-sex couples must reassess finances [Los Angeles Times]

Earlier: The Supreme Court Rules In Two Major Gay Marriage Cases

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