Ruling on DOMA could have major tax implications
The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear oral arguments in a challenge to a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that denies legally married gay and lesbian couples federal benefits available to heterosexual married couples, including tax and Social Security benefits.
A decision is not expected until the end of June, but accountants and tax attorneys anticipating the 18-year-old law’s demise are already encouraging same-sex couples to seek prospective tax refunds, back retirement payments and other spousal subsidies that they may have been denied.
A 2009 study by the Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and the law at the University of California, Los Angeles, estimated that gay couples received an average of $3,060 less a year in Social Security benefits than married heterosexual couples. For lesbian couples, the disparity rose to $5,412. The same study found that gay or lesbian widows or widowers lost out on more than $5,700 a year in survivor benefits than their straight counterparts received.
But some same-sex married couples may end up paying more in taxes if DOMA is overturned, because of the so-called federal “marriage penalty.” Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a tax attorney in New York, has been encouraging many of her clients in same-sex marriages to get their returns in order before the ruling. “If it’s better for them to file single even though they are married, I tell them they need to file before DOMA comes down, because if DOMA comes down, they won’t have the choice,” she said.
Court will allow same day access to audio recordings
The Supreme Court said it would release same-day audio recordings of oral arguments in both same-sex marriage cases to be heard this week.
The last time the court allowed same-day access to such recordings was a year ago, when it heard three days of arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law. The general practice in recent years has been to release audio recordings of arguments at the end of the week.
The court said the recording of the hourlong argument in the first case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, would be available on its website by 1 p.m. on Tuesday. That case is a challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The recording in the arguments of United States vs. Windsor will last almost two hours and will be available by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the court said. The case is a challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
People already are lining up to hear the arguments
A line has begun forming at the Supreme Court for people who want to attend next week’s arguments in two same-sex marriage cases.
Spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg confirmed that people began lining up Thursday.
Lines frequently form in advance for the free tickets to high-profile arguments, but five days before a case is particularly early. For last year’s arguments over the Affordable Care Act, the line began about three days early.