March 27, 2013

Newlywed Mainers hope court cleans up a tax mess

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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A court ruling overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act would simplify tax filing for same-sex Maine couples like Lisa Ward, left, and Mel Cloutier of Lisbon.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Even though they were not technically married in 2012, Ward and Cloutier decided to practice doing their taxes as a married couple just so they would be prepared for next year's filing. The couple was surprised to learn they would have had to pay more to the state had they actually been married in 2012.

"The money was never the point. We just wanted to be married," Ward said.

The different filing requirements between the state and federal systems "feels wrong. It's unfair. I know life is unfair, but still, it's just not right," Ward said.

Lambda Legal, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, recommended that if a couple is legally married on the state level, they should make a note on their federal tax return that their federal "single" filing status is based solely on DOMA, and that they are not lying or filing fraudulent papers by not filing as married.

Nine states, including Maine, and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Colorado recently passed a measure to allow civil unions, putting it on track to join a dozen other states with civil unions or similar laws.

H&R Block began training its staff in Maine in the fall -- before the vote on same-sex marriage took place -- just in case there was a change in the law. Staffers took online training tutorials to make sure they were ready to answer questions as soon as the law took effect, DeBaker said.

About 150 same-sex couples have exchanged vows in Maine since same-sex marriage became legal Dec. 29, but the number of same-sex couples facing tax complications is larger, accountants said.

"It's not just the people who got married at the end of the year. If people got married in other states before and now live here, they are now recognized in the state of Maine," DeBaker said. "A lot of people don't realize it's a bigger pool than those who got married at the end of last year."

DeBaker said people who were married in other states before 2009 should file amended returns for 2009 just in case the Supreme Court overturns DOMA. Taxes can be amended for three years, so 2009 is the first year available to resubmit.

If DOMA is overturned, the amended tax forms would be processed. If DOMA stands, the filings would be shredded, DeBaker said.

Same-sex couples also should adjust their W-4 forms with employers so their payroll deductions reflect their marriage on the state level, DeBaker said. The federal withholding amount would remain the same unless DOMA rules change.

"Hopefully, this will be the only year in Maine that we'll have to do this," said Johnson, the South Portland newlywed. "Things could change."

 

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:
jhall@pressherald.com

 

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