Why Marriage Equality Also Needs to Be About Tax Equality

AL House Speaker Mike Hubbard is on his FB page this week spewing this nonsense: "As many Alabamians are seeing their federal tax bills increase today, I remain committed to lowering the tax burden for all of our families and businesses." 

Well, not for all families: Alabama's lack of marriage equality means that same sex couples can't file joint returns forcing them to pay more in taxes than they would otherwise.

During the dark DOMA years, this was true for couples filing federal returns as well — even if their states recognized their marraiges. And the cost was high. In 2010, for example, same sex couples paid an average of $6,000 more in taxes than other married couples:

Even as more same-sex couples are able to file jointly at the state level, they are still forced to file as single when submitting federal returns to the IRS.

This means they can't combine their income and deductions to take advantage of lower tax rates. It's also harder for them to qualify for certain tax breaks because the credits phase out sooner for single filers.

But DOMA's demise changed that. Now, all legally married couples in Alabama can file joint federal returns, but not all couples can file joint state returns.

Soulforce Alabama is one group working to change that.  From the group's press release:

In October 2013, the IRS released guidelines which specified that if a married couple was married in any state, they were to be considered, “Married,” for purposes of filing Federal Income Tax Returns.

At that time, Soulforce Alabama began a process of identifying so-called LGBT “Angelic Troublemakers” who were legally married and thus required to file Married tax returns to also file as such in the State of Alabama. Under current instructions, same sex couples are supposed to prepare five separate tax returns, including three separate Federal Returns.

Lesbian and Gay Male couples objected to this process for several reasons.  Primarily, we decline to assist the State of Alabama in perpetuating our second-class status.  We are no longer willing to make it easy for the Alabama Government to treat us as “less than”  other families in Alabama.

Secondarily, we object to a state law which requires us to prepare multiple, contradictory Federal Tax Returns.  The law requires us to file a portion or complete copy of the return filed with the Internal Revenue Service.  To file an altered return with the State of Alabama Department of Revenue would seem to be committing fraud. Yet, those are the instructions by the state.

One would think that any self-respecting, self-identified "conservative" Republican would be horrified by a situation that required taxpayers to complete extra tax forms and pay extra taxes. But in Alabama, some married couples are just more "equal" than others.


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