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What Are DOMA's Effects on LGBT Couples?

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DOMA affects the federal tax code.

Legally married same-sex spouses are forced to choose whether to lie about their marital status on their federal income tax returns or risk having their jointly filed return rejected on the grounds that it was fraudulently filed. This puts couples at risk of being assessed a penalty plus interest on their original tax bill.

Because married LGBT spouses can’t file jointly, they’re unable to add up the costs of their combined expenditures, such as uncompensated medical expenses, which may result in a loss of a federal tax deduction for those expenses.

Comingled finances and expenses must be separated for the purposes of calculating individual taxes. This task is at best difficult and time-consuming, and at worst, impossible.

If a married same-sex couple lives in a state that also allows them to file a joint state tax return, they need to re-mingle their income and expenses for the purpose of that state tax return.

When married couples divorce, federal tax law lets them to equitably divide their marital property without being assessed gift and other taxes incurred when one person gives another person something of value. Conversely, when LGBT married partners split up, transfers of valuable property, such as a home, may be taxable.

When one spouse is compelled to pay spousal support to the other in a divorce proceeding, those support payments can be deducted by the spouse who pays support. Not so for LGBT partners.

When one spouse is compelled to pay spousal support to the other in a divorce proceeding, those support payments can be deducted by the spouse who pays support. Not so for LGBT partners.

When a heterosexual spouse dies, the surviving spouse can claim a marital deduction equal to the fair market value of the property transferred from the deceased spouse’s estate to the surviving spouse. The deduction also postpones the requirement to pay federal estate taxes until after the death of the surviving spouse. Again, LGBT spouses don’t qualify for this deduction.

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