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Equal treatment of same-sex marriage will apply for taxes, too

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Minnesota for a few years now. With that equity of recognition under state law came equity across the legal board, in theory if not always in practice anyway.

As a result, as we wrote about in a post back in July, all the pros and cons that other-sex couples have long dealt with are now things that those in same-sex marriages have to endure. That includes all the tax benefits and potential financial planning complications that go with the legally married status.

Now, despite the Supreme Court's ruling this past summer legalizing same-sex marriages in every state, not everyone is allowing the issue to go gently into that good night. Battle lines appear to be forming in some states with religious conviction serving as the grounds. In some cases, the fact that couples were married in one state and now live in another has presented legal challenges when it comes to family law issues, including divorce.

Only time will tell whether the ongoing opposition efforts stand any chance of succeeding. But in the meantime, the Internal Revenue Service has made moves to make sure that same-sex couples have no trouble filing their tax returns.

It announced this week that it is proposing rules to direct that regardless of where same-sex marriages may have been performed, they will be recognized in the context of federal tax law. Specifically, officials say the labels of "husband" or "wife" will be accepted as applying to couples whether they are gay or hetero. The IRS says any issue in which marriage would be a factor will be covered, but the proposed changes won't cover domestic partnerships or similar types of unions.

The tax implications for married couples represent something of a jumble. Some couples can lower tax bills through marriage. Others may pay a marriage penalty. There can be major benefits for couples in which one spouse gets health coverage through the other.

Tax law can be complicated in the best of circumstances. At least the IRS is trying to do its part to provide some consistency.

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