If you’re in a same-sex marriage and you live in Idaho, filing state taxes just got a little simpler.
When the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals legalized gay marriage last year in Idaho, that law change also meant changes at the Idaho Tax Commission and for same-sex couples filing joint tax returns. Now, married same-sex couples will only have to fill out one federal form when they file their taxes, instead of the three that had to be filed under the old rules.
In 2013, we told you about the complications that arose when the federal government started accepting tax forms from gay couples. Back then, Idaho did not recognize gay marriage. So, the state couldn’t process federal forms if a same-sex couple was legally married elsewhere. This led to a number of confusing rules when it came to filling out tax forms.
“If they filed married jointly for federal purposes, they had to file separately as single, for Idaho purposes,” Idaho Tax Commission's Doreen Warren explains.
That meant one couple and three federal forms.
That could have made a difference in how much gay couples have to pay in taxes, depending on how they had to split up their assets. “It is very dependent on each individual circumstances, it’s very unique and it’s case by case," Warren says.
Warren admits it was confusing, but it was the only way to reconcile federal rules that recognized same sex marriages, and Idaho’s constitution which didn’t.
But when Idaho started recognizing gay marriage in October 2014, “that requirement is no longer in place,” says Warren, “So for tax year 2014, if they are in a same-sex relationship and legally married, they are entitled to [file] jointly, in Idaho.”
That’s if the marriage occurred in Idaho on or after October 15, 2014, or they were married before that in another state that recognized same-sex unions.
“This is much easier,” says Warren, “They just file it exactly the way they would file it for the federal return.”
Warren says married gay couples also have the option to amend their taxes for three previous years. “If their marriage was recognized for federal purposes in years past, they could also go back and amend their Idaho return to reflect that same marital status,” Warren adds. That could save some couples money, depending on their circumstances.
Warren says the state doesn't know how many same-sex couples will be impacted by the tax rule change. Idaho doesn’t ask taxpayers if their marriage is homosexual or heterosexual.
Even though gay marriage is now legal in Idaho, the state's old tax rules are still on the books. Idaho Tax Commission Tax Policy Manager Michael Chakarun says the old rules are suspended until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on gay marriage.
If a court ruling allows Idaho to reinstate its ban on gay marriage, the rules would go back into effect. If a ruling went the other way, Chakarun says the rules would get taken off the books. “We’re just waiting until the Supreme Court rules one way or the other.”
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