After DOMA Repeal, Couples Make Sense of New Taxes

There's a financial, as well as emotional, element that accompanies the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage

For many same-sex couples, the Supreme Court ruling striking down a key provision that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex pairs was met with euphoria and plans to head to the altar.

Before moving forward, some local couples are calling for caution.

"We are married, but we're not married in their eyes," Jeff Watson said, referring to the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service.

It may not be as exciting as the cake and decorations, but he said knowing how to deal with tax turmoil is almost as important.

Elisha Wiesenberg, of Wiesenberg & Co. in Studio City, is the couple's accountant. Before the justices' 5-4 decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS did not recognize same sex couples, which made for complications come tax time.

"Instead of doing one return for a couple, you are really doing three returns for a couple," Wiesenberg said.

The CPA, who said 15 percent of his clients are same-sex couples, said California recognized the pairings as registered domestic partnership. The distinction was clearly defined on the state's tax form with a box that says "married or RDP."

"My guess is that the 1040 is not going to change. It’s just going to be that now instead of having to file two of them, you can check the box, married filing jointly," Wiesenberg said.

What may change is the effect on a person's bottom line. Filing jointly has a host of different consequences. For example, there is the marriage penalty.

"Your tax bill is going to be $10,000 higher …. just because you are getting married and that's not like an exotic scenario. It's very likely," Wiesenberg said.

After 12 years and several tax returns together, Jeff Watson and his partner are looking forward to possibly taking the leap from domestic partnership to marriage.

"If the time comes, it makes good practical sense," Watson said.

He advises others to plan before they enjoy their new status.

"Find a competent tax professional that can guide you through this," he said.

For more information on how the DOMA ruling will affect same sex couples as it pertains to taxes, divorce, Family Medical Leave Act, Social Security Spousal and Family Protections, and other topics click here.

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