Over the past few months, many couples have been preparing their taxes. As the deadline to file passed this month, many LGBT couples were reminded of the difficulties that face in not being recognized the same way as heterosexual couples.
On April 15, the deadline for filing income taxes, the Respect for Marriage Coalition held a teleconference with MSNBC Host Suze Orman and other tax experts about the challenges married same-sex couples face when preparing their taxes.
Orman pointed out that in states that allow same-sex marriage, couples must file twice, jointly with the state government and independently with the federal government.
Orman also said that in order for a spouse in a same-sex relationship to provide health insurance for their partner, they can be subject to anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000 a year in taxes that heterosexual married couples are exempt from.
Orman also mentioned the disparities in estate taxes, and savings plans such as ROTH IRAs.
"There is such discrimination, from insurance benefits, social security benefits," Orman said.
Orman said that the forms of social discrimination we face in our society are enough of a challenge for LGBT couples.
"The financial discrimination really, really adds injury to insult," she added.
Ormanwho married her wife, Kathy Travis, 13 years agosaid she has never hidden her relationship with her wife from her family. Still, she says many of the children in her extended family will ask their parents, and other aunts and uncles, about their weddings, how they met, and details of their relationship, without asking Orman or Travis.
The primary challenge made in United States v. Windsor, one of the recently heard Supreme Court cases, concerned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and whether it violates equal protection under the law for legally married same-sex couples.
The plaintiff in the case, Edith Windsor, is specifically arguing that the federal estate tax of more than $300,000 she owed from her deceased wife's estate does violate equal protection.
Orman said that the overturn of DOMA in every state is essential.
Elda Di Re, a partner and personal financial services leader for Ernst & Young LLP, said that while there are a number of inequalities, if DOMA is overturned, there could be an opportunity to go back and file claim on previous returns.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a three-year statute of limitations for refunds and audits.
Di Re said it is impossible to know how the IRS will adjust to any decision made by the Supreme Court, and pointed out that two individuals who are married and earning income is not always advantageous from a tax-paying standpoint.
She said making amended returns option but not required, giving those who would have to pay more taxes the option not to, would be the most payer-friendly outcome.
Mark Maxwell and Timothy Young-Maxwell are a gay couple living in North Carolina. They've adopted four boys, and Maxwell is self-employed. The couple said the money they're spending on Maxwell's health insurance could go towards a mortgage payment or college savings for their children.
Maxwell also mentioned that because of North Carolina adoption law, the two are not able to share custody of their sons, and each has two in their name.
"We are legal strangers to two of our children," he said.
Orman said that if DOMA is, in fact, repealed, it should be the responsibility of gay couples to seek equal treatment in states that allow same-sex marriage.
"If there is a step backwards in North Carolina, I think there need to be a step forward for gay couples to think about if they want to stay in that state," she said.