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US Treasury and IRS Issue Important Ruling and Clarification

The US Treasury and the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17 (Rev. Rul. 2013-17) clarifying the terms of the recent Supreme Court decisions concerning same-sex marriages. In what is described by many experts in the industry as a broader definition than was expected, the clarifications include:

Legal marriages between same-sex partners performed in any state of the US, Washington DC, any US Territory or any Foreign Country will be recognized for all Federal tax purposes and other Federal administrative purposes where marriage is a factor. These marriages will be recognized by the Federal Government regardless of the state of residency. (It was first thought that these same-sex marriages would only be recognized by the Federal Government if the individuals resided in a state allowing such marriages, known as the state-of-domicile rule.)

The US Treasury and the IRS explained that they thought such a ruling (residency requirement) would be too difficult for the employers to administer with multiple state offices, employees living in different states, employees moving from state to state, etc. (It is interesting to note however that the Department of Labor enforces a residency requirement for the administration of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which also greatly affects the same employers. Other agencies throughout the Federal Government also use the residency requirement so one would hope that there will be further clarification on this issue.)

Where spousal rules apply, that means contribution rules for IRAs and HSAs are affected. It also means that some Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) calculation rules are also affected. Rules for 401(k)s are also affected. Any area of IRAs, HSAs, CESAs and 401(k)s that uses marriage/spouse as a determining factor in administration must now follow this new definition of marriage.

Although the official effective date is September 16, 2013, there are even provisions in this ruling that allows those affected by the previous rulings/definition to amend their previous tax returns. Those wanting to do so should seek their tax and legal counsel because there are special rules and limitations that must be followed.

This Revenue Ruling, however, does NOT apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships between same-sex partners, under any state law. However, it appears those couples could go to a state that does allow same-sex marriages and then be eligible for any Federal marriage/spousal rules in their state of residency. They would NOT be eligible for the amending of previous tax returns, however.

It should be noted that this just applies to the Federal definition of marriage and spouse. How individual states rule will be determined by state law.

Terry White

About Terry White

I started my business career after getting my degree in Accounting from the University of New Mexico in 1983. My first job was as a controller for a local title company, and in 1987 I started First Financial Escrow, Inc. Over the years I played a part in several startup companies including First Financial Equities, Inc., First Financial Trust, Inc., First Financial Marketing, Inc. and Asset Ventures, Inc. In 1997 First Financial Escrow, Inc. was able to purchase the escrow accounts from Sunwest Bank and changed its name to Sunwest Escrow. As the market changes, Sunwest has grown and changed along with it. Besides my wife, Sheila, we have three boys, two daughters-in-law, one grandson, another grandson on the way and a future daughter-in-law. Sunwest is my passion, and I enjoy coming to work every day to see what will happen next. I enjoy fly fishing, spending time in Colorado, biking and watching my boys play soccer.