September 27, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King are co-sponsoring legislation allowing same-sex couples to claim tax refunds that were denied to them before nationwide recognition of their marriages occurred. The Refund Equality Act would give same-sex couples in states like Maine who were able to marry before the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision the larger federal tax refunds received by similarly situated, heterosexual married couples during those years. During the years between the first state legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004 and federal recognition for tax benefits in 2013, straight couples who filed jointly could claim multiple standard deductions that same-sex couples were not eligible for.
“Maine voters legalized same-sex marriages in our state nearly a decade ago, and since Obergefell, all Americans have had the right to marry the person whom they love,” said Senator Collins. “We should not have a situation where married couples are treated differently from other married couples. This bill is another important step to promote equality and prevent discrimination.”
“Marriage is one of life’s great gifts; it brings companionship, love, and support. Along with the obvious personal and emotional benefits of partnership, marriage is also supposed to present financial benefits and the ability to claim joint deductions that can result in significant tax savings,” said Senator King. “All married couples who qualify for these tax refunds deserve them, but for too many years, legally wedded same-sex couples in Maine and across the nation were not eligible. The Refund Equality Act would right this wrong and allow same-sex couples to receive the tax refunds that were withheld before they received federal recognition of their marriages. This bill is purely about fairness, giving people what they are owed, and recognizing the many promises of marriage.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision, the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In 2004, while the DOMA was still in effect, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and Maine later did so in 2012. In the intervening years between state legalization and federal recognition, same-sex spouses could be married in states where it was legal, but could not file a federal joint income tax return. This often meant that same-sex couples received fewer tax deductions and benefits than heterosexual couples who could file jointly did. The Refund Equality Act enables same-sex couples who were legally married before federal recognition to re-file their tax returns for those years as “married, filing jointly,” – receiving any tax benefits that separate filing status denied them.