July 17, 2017

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Refund Equality Act To Provide Equal Tax Treatment For Married Same-Sex Couples

Bill Would Permit Same-Sex Couples Previously Barred from Filing Taxes Jointly to Submit Amended Returns Dating Back to Year of Marriage

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced the Refund Equality Act of 2017 that would update the federal tax code to ensure that legally-married same-sex couples – who until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly – are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.

“There is no reason that legally married couples shouldn't be able to file taxes jointly and receive the full tax refund they have earned, but same-sex couples have been barred from doing just that for nearly a decade,” said Udall. “This is a commonsense bill to make sure same-sex couples are granted the same tax rights as every other married couple and can receive the tax credits and refunds they have been entitled to. The Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, and Congress must ensure our laws reflect that.”

“All legally married couples in New Mexico deserve to be treated equally, and must be afforded the same protections under the law,” said Heinrich. “It is unacceptable that our tax code prevents many same-sex couples from claiming the tax refund they earned. This bill is an important step in the right direction in ensuring equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.”

Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating back up to three years, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor are unable to claim refunds for years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $67 million in refunds to which they are entitled.

The legislation is led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

A fact sheet about the bill is available here, and a PDF of the bill is available here.