Bill Would Permit Same-Sex Couples Previously Barred from Filing Taxes Jointly to Submit Amended Returns
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and 69 of their congressional colleagues have introduced the Refund Equality Act of 2017. This legislation would 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.
“For nearly a decade, legally married same-sex couples had to file their taxes as single persons, often paying more taxes than they would owe if they could file as married,” Senator Warren said. “This bill is a simple fix to allow same-sex couples to claim the tax refunds they earned but were denied because of who they love.”
“All legally married couples in this country deserve to be treated equally,” said Representative Neal. “This bill would codify into law an important correction that would enable same-sex married couples to go back and claim the tax refunds and credits for which they qualify. The Supreme Court has ruled as such, and now it’s time for Congress to act and make sure all Americans are treated with the fairness and equality they deserve under the law.”
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 cosponsored by 30 senators, including Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
Additionally, 39 members of the House of Representatives cosponsored the legislation.