Same-sex couple in JP sues IRS for tax refund

Vickie Henry and Claire Humphrey yesterday sued the IRS, alleging rules that prohibit them from filing tax returns as a married couple unconstitutionally taxes them at a higher rate than other married people.

The pair, who filed their suit in US District Court in Boston, say they have filed amended returns listing them as married for 2007 and 2009 and want a refund on their taxes for those years, based on the lower rate charged a married couple versus two single people.

A year ago, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which the IRS uses to define "married" was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is currently considering the law.

Henry and Humphrey married in 2004, a few months after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry. Among their arguments for a refund:

Although plaintiffs are similarly situated to all other married persons in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, intrudes into their marriage, severs their marriage into "federal" and "state" components, and erases their marriage for all federal purposes. DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, thereby burdens and stigmatizes their marital relationship, causing confusion and complexity in a culture where people are expected to have one familial and marital status, whether dealing with private, state or federal entities.

DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, requires plaintiffs to deny the existence of their family and the nature of their familial relationship. For example, DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, forces plaintiffs to misstate their actual marital status and describe themselves as "unmarried" or "single" or "head of household" to United States government officials and on United States government forms on pain of civil or criminal sanctions. Federal income tax law requires income tax returns to be signed under the pains and penalties of perjury, 26 U.S.C. § 7206, but DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, forces the plaintiffs to make blatant misrepresentations about their families and their marital status.

The requirement, imposed by DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, that plaintiffs inaccurately identify their marital status as "single" or "unmarried" in federal contexts, even though they are legally married, burdens and stigmatizes their family relationships.

As a sovereign state of the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has, since its ratification of the United States Constitution and, indeed, before then, exclusively established and ordained the legal requirements for civil marriage within their sovereign jurisdiction and the circumstances for recognizing a marriage performed outside of Massachusetts.



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    how much will this cost?

    By on

    Wow, so they want to make it retroactive? How much would that cost, if the court guts DOMA?

    Good for them!

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    Good for them! I don't know where the lawsuit that finally guts that abomination DOMA is going to come from, but I'd be really proud to have it originate with a gay couple in JP. Good luck, Henry-Humphreys!

    My understanding is that the

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    My understanding is that the Windsor case that SCOTUS heard in late March related directly to DOMA and could result in its dismantling, sometime by the end of June, if 5 justices agree with the plaintiff.

    Whether that would result in retroactive tax refunds, I'm not certain. Perhaps that might require another lawsuit, in which event, this case could be the one.

    Love it

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    Good for them!

    I only wish the time would come for the IRS to stop screwing over the young, single and renting demographic. The amount of breaks designed to encourage marriage and home ownership needs to stop - especially given the way the government has encouraged the risky loans that have completely screwed the housing market and keeps prices artificially high - further screwing the indebted young lacking the savings to sufficiently consider ownership too.

    Kind of the point...

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    Granted the whole structure needs to be revised so that millionaires and corporations are paying their fair share...

    But the whole point of the tax breaks is that we as a society are trying to encourage the sorts of middle-aged, middle-class things that make the society stronger and more stable -- owning homes, getting higher education, providing for children, and so forth. I'm hardly one to say that these need to be everyone's aspirations, or that everyone needs to achieve them in the same way or the same order, but I can get behind the general idea that society is trying to encourage such things.

    And since this post is about DOMA

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    When my spouse and I got insurance through my job, the market value of the insurance policy that was for my spouse was added to my W-2 as taxable income. This meant that my income looked $10,000 higher than what I actually made and was able to use. I also didn't get the pre-tax deduction for the whole family that straight couples get.

    So, when I was making about $40,000, my W-2 showed closer to $50,000. My straight-married coworkers' W-2s showed closer to $30,000 because of the pre-tax thing.

    This isn't a couple thousand dollars in taxes each year that would suck, but that I could suck it up and deal with. This is about $3000 in taxes, PLUS getting totally screwed over by the reported income issue. This meant that when showing income for things like financial aid for my child, sliding-scale community services, etc., I showed a W-2 that said 50K instead of saying 30K as it would have if Spousal Unit were male. This really adds up when all year we have to pay the higher rate because agencies have to go by the assumption that we have money we don't actually have, and aren't eligible for things like fuel assistance that we would be if Spousal Unit were male. Most of the people who are looking at income documentation don't understand the "imputed income" thing at all, and even if they do, they aren't allowed to adjust the income. The "Massachusetts income" box on the W-2 shows the correct amount without the insurance added in, but everyone is told they have to go by the federal box. I'm guessing I'd have to file a lawsuit or something in order to make agencies in Massachusetts use the state definition of marriage/family/dependent rather than the federal one.

    Fortunately (?) I'm no longer working full-time, but really, WTF government? Shouldn't we get the same tax breaks that encourage people to own homes and raise children and contribute to society?

    Depends on relative income levels of the couple

    If spouses make comparable amounts of money each they are actually screwed by the tax code for being married, not benefited.

    A married couple where each spouse makes about as much as the other would pay less in total federal income tax if they could each file as single vs. being forced to file jointly.


    Not in my example

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    Spousal Unit's job doesn't offer insurance.

    Also, two individual insurance plans can cost more than one two-person plan. Or, in many cases, one spouse would pay for a family plan and one would pay for an individual plan. If they were straight, they'd only need to pay for the family plan.

    Why are you complaining about

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    Why are you complaining about homeowner tax breaks? Wouldn't you rather buy and pay $1200 per month instead of paying $1500+ a month if you rent?

    Wait, gays get screwed on taxes?

    Well, frickin' A, this has to be the reason we've dragged our collective feet on legalizing gay marriage, right?

    I've always wondered why gay marriage isn't wholly legal nationally on economic grounds. This might be it, and if it is, why doesn't this idea get more play in the press?

    Hell, I'm waiting for somebody trying to legalize gay marriage somewhere to make it an economic argument. Center the campaign around tourist dollars. "If we don't legalize it, the gay couples here will spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding in another state. Money that will leave our state. Vote yes."

    Well, there we go

    Take notes, you stupid southern hicks. They're here, they're queer, get used to it. They can and will have their wedding outside of your state in another state.

    Serious question: We bulled states into making 21 the drinking age by threatening to pull their highway funding. Why can't we do this with gay marriage? Tell the states straight up "this makes money. Legalize it, or we'll pull your road funding. We're not going to send you money if you refuse to earn it otherwise."

    Apples and oranges

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    The fact is that drunk drivers impact all of us who use the highways, even those individuals who aren't directly involved in a crash with one.

    Whether or not you agree with the government's tactics regarding highway funding, a direct correlation can be made between drunk driving and highway usage.

    The marital status of individuals has no relationship (sorry for the pun) whatsoever with highway design, construction, and funding.


    What do drunk drivers have to do with the drinking age being 21?

    Either you live in a rural area and have to drive to drink, or you're urban and you walk/cab it to a bar.

    These rural Southern states will have the same drunk driving problem, regardless of whether or not soused 19 year olds are behind the wheel.

    And so what if marital status doesn't correlate to road maintenance? Screw 'em anyway. You want to be an idiot with making tourism money, go start your own country. Oh, wait, they already did that, and we fought a war to stop them. Why?

    Expect a lot of these if DOMA is struck down

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    If anyone is curious, the docket number for this case is 13-cv-11156.

    If anyone is wondering why they didn't wait until after the Supreme Court rules on DOMA, I suspect it is because the statute of limitations was about to expire on their 2007 claim. Specifically, the final date to file an amended tax return for 2007 would have been April 15, 2011. It would have taken the IRS a couple of months to process and deny the amended return, at which point you have two years to file suit in federal court.

    Since we didn't get married until 2008, we still have a year before we need to file suit regarding our 2008 tax return. Thus, we're waiting for the final SCOTUS ruling before we do so. I suspect there will be a flurry of these types of lawsuits if/when section 3 of DOMA is struck down.