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IRS: Legally married gay couples cannot file joint returns

If your same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Canada, it’s still a no-no to file a joint federal tax return because of DOMA and court rulings on Monday in Minnesota. This ruling, of course, is no surprise, but the challenges will continue.

The IRS says it is basing its denial of joint filings on Federal DOMA which restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples. The warning follows a court ruling in Minnesota where a federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit that was filed by a gay couple.

Jack Baker and L. Michael McConnell claimed they deserved a tax refund because they were legally married and should be granted married taxpayer status.

McConnell had sought to change his taxpayer status to married, and claimed he deserved a refund of nearly $800. The suit asked U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen for an order “declaring plaintiff to be a full citizen who is lawfully married” in Minnesota.

In 1971, Baker and McConnell sued Hennepin County when they were denied a marriage license. They lost that case – but while it was before the court they managed to get a marriage license in Mankato County and were married before a Methodist minister in St. Paul.

Four years later the couple returned to court seeking to force the Veterans Administration to increase Baker’s educational benefits, claiming McConnell was a dependent spouse.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the fundamental issues of joint tax status were the same as those raised regarding veterans benefits.

That decision formed the basis for Ericksen’s ruling Monday which said that the earlier ruling barred the couple from “relitigating claims against the IRS.”

An issue that isn’t discussed here is whether there needs to be some notation on the tax returns that the individuals are legally married elsewhere so that it is on file with the government that there can be no future claim that the couple intended to deceive telling the IRS of marital status.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding