January 13, 2015
WERE YOU A MARRIED SAME-SEX COUPLE ON OR BEFORE DECEMBER 31, 2011?
If so, you only have until April 15, 2015 to file an amended income tax return for the 2011 tax year. Prior to the downfall of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013, married same-sex couples were required to file their federal income tax as single individuals. But now that the IRS recognizes married same-sex couples regardless of where they live, as of tax year 2013, you must file your federal income taxes as married (either jointly or separately).
The IRS has a general policy of allowing people to file amended returns up to three years back. So since the deadline for filing 2011 taxes was April 15, 2012, the IRS gives you until April 15, 2015 to file an amended return for that year. Similarly, you have until April 15, 2016 to file an amended return for 2012.
For many same-sex married couples, filing as married means paying less taxes than filing as two single individuals. Also, if your spouse was on your employee health plan, you were paying taxes on what your employer contributed to your spouse’s part of the health plan—this amount is called “imputed income.” If you file an amended return as married, you can take off this imputed income. So if you think that you could benefit by filing an amended return for 2011 or 2012 as married, you should act before you lose the opportunity.
DO YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW RECEIVE SSI AND BEEN ASKED TO REPAY “OVERPAYMENTS”?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a crucial safety net for people who have limited income and resources. To determine eligibility for someone who is married, the program looks at the income and resources of both spouses together. Of course, prior to June 26, 2013 when DOMA was in effect, married same-sex couples were treated as single by the Social Security Administration. For SSI purposes, DOMA meant that the government considered only the income and resources of the SSI applicant or recipient and not of the spouse.
Even after the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional in June 2013, the Social Security Administration continued to pay SSI benefits without taking the marriage into account. They did not change their policies or update their procedures until very recently. SSA still has taken no steps to notify married same-sex couples in which one or both is an SSI recipient that they must now use a different process for determining their SSI eligibility.
Recently, some SSI recipients have received a letter from Social Security demanding repayment of what they say is an “overpayment” of benefits. Sometimes these claimed overpayments are thousands of dollars. Even though Social Security had no system in place until recently, they are now seeking repayment of benefits they say should not have been paid. Sometimes they are also reducing or eliminating SSI benefits entirely.