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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 25
Sens. Cantwell and Murray urge IRS to fix filing problems for same-sex couples
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Sens. Cantwell and Murray urge IRS to fix filing problems for same-sex couples

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Washington's U.S. senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, are among six senators sending a letter to the IRS urging them to fix problems faced by same-sex couples while filing their 2010 federal income tax returns.

The letter was sent to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman on June 21.

'For same-sex couples and domestic partners in states like Washington that recognize these unions, filing accurate federal tax returns is disproportionately difficult and places an unreasonable burden on taxpayers,' Cantwell said in a statement to SGN.

'It is important that the IRS issue clear guidance so that these couples who are making all attempts to file correctly can accurately understand their tax liabilities and not have to worry about their returns being misread or improperly interpreted.'

Murray agreed.

'Same-sex couples in Washington state have spent great amounts of time and money trying to accurately file their tax returns and they deserve to have a system that works for them,' she said.

'The IRS needs to act quickly to address this issue and help people get the guidance they need to comply with the law.'

The letter was signed by Murray and Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-V.T.), Tom Harkin (D-I.A.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

All six are Democrats, and all are from states that recognize same-sex relationships in some form.

'Today, each of our states recognizes same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships that the federal government does not recognize. When couples in these relationships attempted to calculate their tax returns this year, they encountered significant problems,' the letter said.

'We respectfully request that you take steps to provide appropriate guidance to these couples.'

In their letter, the six senators cited specific issues that made it difficult for same-sex couples to file accurate tax returns, and called on the IRS to provide these couples with the guidance they need to comply with the law.

Among the issues raised by the senators was the investment of time it took same-sex couples to figure out how to fill out the forms.

'Many couples have reported spending substantial amounts of time and money trying to file accurate tax returns,' the senators wrote.

State community property laws also created problems for some couples.

'It is also imperative that the IRS address the specific problems encountered by couples in California, Washington, and Nevada, where state community property laws apply,' the letter insisted.

Because some states, like Washington, require same-sex couples to combine their incomes and then each pay taxes on one-half the total, 'underpayment penalties may be wrongly assessed or the system may incorrectly register that overpayments have been made.'

The senators also found that where one partner is self-employed, 'social security credits and tax liabilities may be wrongly attributed to the taxpayer who is not self-employed.'

'These administrative difficulties threaten to add additional, unacceptable burdens to couples that already went to great lengths to file accurate returns,' the senators said.

The six senators also recognized that the essential obstacle to fairness under federal tax codes is DOMA, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex relationships.

'Some, but not all, of these problems would be solved by repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. We support repeal of that law,' they said.

'Until the full Congress acts, however, it is essential that the IRS take steps to ensure that couples have the guidance they need to file accurate tax returns under current law and that an administrative system be in place to recognize accurate returns when they are filed.'

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