Tuesday, April 17, 2012

DOMA makes an already taxing day even more taxing

Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez are hurt by DOMA at tax time

It’s Tax Day in America, which is “among the most stressful days of the year for procrastinators across the country,” as this article from the Christian Science Monitor appropriately notes. It also details a list of Tax Day food freebies being offered to all of the stress eaters out there, because free Arby’s and a couple of Cinnabon Bites will surely make things easier on your wallet, if not your waistline.

Seriously though, there’s probably no other day in which the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) hits home harder for the average married same-sex couple, because the law prohibits those couples from filing their federal taxes jointly. This creates extra headaches in the form of additional paperwork that must be completed to account for the differences in state returns -- wherein couples can file jointly -- and federal returns. There’s also the prospect of being penalized for lying on a federal return -- because DOMA forces a spouse to check the “unmarried” box on their return. Couples with kids must decide which parent will claim the children on their federal tax return, an awkward prospect for some because it creates a paper trail that doesn’t reflect the reality of the family. As Suzanne Artis, a plaintiff with her wife Geraldine in our Pedersen DOMA lawsuit, says of having to choose who will claim parentage of their children at tax time, “I don’t like having to divide them up. They’re not property, they’re my family.”

The Artises story is detailed in a new report from our friends at the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), an LGBT think tank, called “Unequal Taxation and Undue Burdens for LGBT Families.” The report documents the numerous disadvantages married same-sex couples face because DOMA does not treat their marriages the same as other marriages under federal tax law. The bottom line is that same-sex married couples wind up paying thousands more in taxes than opposite sex couples as a result of DOMA. The Artis family, for instance, paid an extra $1490 to the federal government on their taxes in 2009, the year they married. Three years later, the extra taxes continue to accumulate. As the parents of three boys, that’s money they could use to pay household expenses or put into college funds.

Then there are folks like Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez, who have paid a whopping $25,359 (and counting) in extra taxes over the life of their marriage thanks to DOMA. In these uncertain times, that’s money Beatrice and Melba, who are both in their fifties, could be setting aside for their retirement years. That’s more cause for heartburn than any Arby’s Bacon Beef 'n Cheddar could ever inflict.

Pass the Pepto.

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