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Gay couples could see windfalls from court action

By Lisa Leff

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:42 a.m. HST, Mar 09, 2013


SAN FRANCISCO » For Mina Meyer and Sharon Raphael, two women in their 70s who fell in love more than four decades ago and have been married for more than four years, the U.S. Supreme Court's pending consideration of a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing unions like theirs is about more than civil rights. It's about buying a new roof for their California home, replacing their 2005 Toyota Camry, and ensuring Meyer doesn't take a financial hit if Raphael dies first.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this month in a challenge to a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that denies legally married gay and lesbian couples federal benefits available to heterosexual married couples, including tax and Social Security benefits. A decision is not expected until the end of June, but accountants and tax attorneys anticipating the 18-year-old law's demise are already encouraging same-sex couples like Raphael and Meyer to seek prospective tax refunds, back retirement payments and other spousal subsidies they may have been denied.

It is unclear how the justices might rule, but the Obama administration and former President Bill Clinton, who signed the act into law, have urged the court to overturn it on grounds that it violates the civil rights of gay Americans. DOMA supporters, including House Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner, argue that Congress — not the court — should decide as public opinion for same-sex marriage grows. Other conservative groups argue that spousal benefits should be reserved only for couples of the opposite sex.

Part of the urgency for couples to act stems from deadlines established under the U.S. tax code, which gives taxpayers three years to file protective claims for income and estate tax refunds. Same-sex couples or surviving spouses who were legally married before or during 2009 would therefore have until April 15 of this year to submit amended returns claiming overpayments on income for that tax year, said Vickie Henry, a senior staff attorney at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

At the time, gay unions were legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont, and briefly had been in California. New York and the District of Columbia, which have since legalized same-sex unions, also recognized marriages performed in other states or countries.

While married couples from those jurisdictions would have the strongest cases, couples from states such as Hawaii, Nevada and Illinois that treat domestic partnerships and civil unions as the same as marriage for tax purposes might also see federal refunds depending on how the Supreme Court rules, said Pat Cain, a federal tax expert at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

"On the income tax side, anybody who would benefit from filing jointly and who would be eligible to do so if DOMA falls should consider filing amended tax returns for the applicable years," Cain said.

The sums at stake are not inconsequential. The case the justices accepted, for example, involves a New York state widow, Edith Windsor, 83, who is seeking a refund of the $363,000 she had to pay in estate taxes after her wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. If Windsor had not been married to another woman, her tax bill would have been $0 because married U.S. citizens are allowed to pass their assets onto their spouses tax-free — but only if the surviving spouse is of the opposite sex.

Gerald McIntyre, directing attorney at the National Senior Citizens Law Center, said Social Security benefits, which kick in based on the date of application, are where gay couples have lost the most and stand the most to gain.

Lower-earning spouses such as Meyer have been doubly penalized under DOMA, McIntrye said, first by being unable to claim the spousal benefit that allows married heterosexuals to increase their monthly benefits by drawing half of a husband or wife's Social Security, then being deemed ineligible for survivor benefits that are equal to what a deceased spouse got in retirement each month.

A 2009 study by The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and the law at the University of California, Los Angeles, estimated that gay couples received an average of $3,060 less a year in Social Security benefits than married straight couples. For lesbian couples, the disparity rose to $5,412. The same study found that gay or lesbian widows or widowers lost out on more than $5,700 a year in survivor benefits than their straight counterparts received.

In the case of retirees Raphael and Meyer, it could mean an additional $7,335 year in Social Security benefits because Meyer, who worked in office jobs and a bookstore, would be entitled to the Social Security benefits of Raphael, who earned considerably more as a college professor for 40 years. That would boost their fixed monthly income by about 10 percent. Last year, on the advice of a professional colleague and with the high court poised to decide if DOMA is constitutional, Meyer applied for more than a year's worth of retroactive benefits as well as bigger future checks if the law is struck down.

"This is not the only money we live on, but it does make a big difference," said Meyer, 73, who also would see her Social Security checks more than quadruple in the event she is widowed and the court overturns the act. "That $700 a month is $700 a month."

Other married same-sex couples may end up paying more in taxes if DOMA is overturned, due to the so-called federal "marriage penalty." Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a tax attorney in the New York office of accounting firm Marcum LLP, (equals) has been encouraging many of her clients in same-sex marriages to get their returns in order before the Supreme Court rules.

"If it's better for them to file single even though they are married, I tell them they need to file before DOMA comes down, because if DOMA comes down, they won't have the choice," she said.







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8082062424 wrote:
same old
on March 9,2013 | 10:15AM
Kahu Matu wrote:
This isn't about love or companionship. It's about money and getting tax benefits. Sad that marriage is being even more devalued through this debate.
on March 9,2013 | 05:48PM
bender wrote:
What nonsense. These folks are still free to replace their roof or replace their car just as everyone else is. It's as if they are saying not bveing married places an obstacle in their path. And sooner or later we all die and it doesn't matter who goes first.
on March 9,2013 | 10:25AM
RichardCory wrote:
Are you upset that it isn't the 1950's anymore? Get to work on that time machine, pal.
on March 9,2013 | 10:26AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Are you saying we're better off now than in the 50's?
on March 9,2013 | 01:58PM
8082062424 wrote:
If he is boy is he wrong.
on March 9,2013 | 03:32PM
iansuen wrote:
And you don't agree? Percentage of American's claiming no religion is on the rise. In addition minorities continue to make up a bigger and bigger percentage. The Republican party is facing a demographic crisis as evidenced by the November elections...
on March 9,2013 | 05:30PM
hawaiikone wrote:
We were far better off in the 50's than today, and more and more of us are realizing it.
on March 9,2013 | 06:38PM
hawaiikone wrote:
God blessed this nation. He stayed with us through all our mistakes. We moved forward, advanced the rights of women, rejected slavery and welcomed those wanting to live in a free land. As we grew, we kept God close, seeking Him in prayer, following His guidance as best we could. A couple of generations ago something began to change. The good life was right in front of us, tantalizingly close, and we became fixated on getting there. We kept our Christian heritage in name only, content to relegate our spirituality into simply one of many influential facets of our lives. Gradually we allowed our faith to compromise itself into meshing with the world around us, until it became so diluted it became difficult to recognize any difference between a Christian and anyone else. How can we fault our children today for wanting something they perceive as real? Our example has been such a poor one, they want to believe in something else altogether. So when the question is asked were we better off in the 50's than we are today, it becomes easy to see the answer.
on March 9,2013 | 08:03PM
onevoice82 wrote:
Very well said hawaiiikone!
on March 10,2013 | 07:43AM
speakingtruth wrote:
Can't agree more. Before we point the fingers at others, we need to point them at ourselves.
on March 10,2013 | 09:10AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
As someone with people of different races, genders, and sexual orientations sprinkled throughout my family, I can unequivocably say we are better off than we were in the 1950's.
on March 10,2013 | 08:58AM
ISCREAM wrote:
We have more "stuff" but we are not better off...The '50's had families still together...the focus was on each other not on what we can accumulate and we certainly did not have young kids that are "tuned out".
on March 10,2013 | 09:34AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
My post had nothing whatsoever to do with "stuff". My kids (and nephews and nieces) are not tuned out; they are engaged, moral, fully valued members of society. And as equality becomes more real, that will only get better.
on March 10,2013 | 09:52AM
serious wrote:
It's the Democratic way!!! Keep it behind doors!!
on March 9,2013 | 11:16AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The Democrats do not want it behind closed doors like it used to be. Sodomy is now a Democrat value and they want it to be main stream.
on March 9,2013 | 06:58PM
aomohoa wrote:
If my husband dies I still get his retirement and social security benefits. Do gay couple? They certainly should.
on March 9,2013 | 11:35AM
ISCREAM wrote:
No, that is not necessarily true. When I die my retirement stops.
on March 9,2013 | 02:47PM
aomohoa wrote:
Than he probably gets more retirement now. My husband set it up so I still get his retirement, so he gets less now. I guess my husband is a good planner.
on March 9,2013 | 03:57PM
ISCREAM wrote:
So what you have become is a "beneficiary". You do not need to be married to make someone a beneficiary.
on March 9,2013 | 04:55PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
You're right, you don't. But if it's a 401Kor any other tax-deferred program, it can rollover into a new 401k in the surviving spouse's name with no federal tax implication whatsoever. That is not the case for two people in a civil union.
on March 9,2013 | 06:24PM
ISCREAM wrote:
You can also roll it over for a child or grand child...
on March 9,2013 | 07:58PM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
Well for gay couples they do not get those benefits when their partner dies - unlike straight couples.
on March 9,2013 | 03:42PM
DPK wrote:
kapoleitalkstory: I have 3 friends that love each other. Why can't they get married?
on March 9,2013 | 07:30PM
iansuen wrote:
You didn't even bother to read the article, especially the estate taxes part.
on March 9,2013 | 12:17PM
aomohoa wrote:
You're right, I didn't. Didn't have time so I just gave my opinion on gays rights.
on March 9,2013 | 02:43PM
Mana07 wrote:
The United States dies a little more each day.....
on March 9,2013 | 01:10PM
speakingtruth wrote:
Osama Bin Ladin did not have to destroy us. We are doing it ourselves. Rotten from the core has no way of healing.
on March 9,2013 | 06:58PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Our gradual diluting of Christianity in order to remain "relevant" in today's world, combined with our own lousy example of living Christian lives has resulted in an increasing rejection of God. How can we expect others to see something different in us when we have become indistinguishable from the world?
on March 9,2013 | 07:32PM
speakingtruth wrote:
This is so true. I am a Christian myself. Christians have become such lousy witnesses. People (including myself) go to churches and believe they have done their job as Christians.
on March 10,2013 | 09:03AM
ISCREAM wrote:
So my question is that if gay rights claim to legitimacy is that "well I was born this way" and "cannot change who I am" what is the difference between them and say a pedoflle or a serial raplst/klller who argues that they have the right to their way of living...that they were born that way?
on March 9,2013 | 02:45PM
aomohoa wrote:
That's a ridiculous comparison and sick!
on March 9,2013 | 03:58PM
kukui_nut wrote:
Actually, that comparison is pretty spot on.
on March 9,2013 | 04:18PM
ISCREAM wrote:
It is not necessarily a comparison but a real conversation I had with some gay friends of mine...clinically the defense could work...socially, we don't like the idea that their "come from" is the same.
on March 9,2013 | 04:50PM
localguy wrote:
Doesn't say much for the company you keep.
on March 9,2013 | 07:31PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Thank you...I don't harbor prejudice...
on March 9,2013 | 07:59PM
hawaiikone wrote:
I've asked that question many times before with no response. You're better off remaining silent, as the very arguments you use to justify gay right would have to apply equally to others as well. You unwillingness to openly support those other "relationships" would label you a hypocrite.
on March 9,2013 | 06:43PM
mokebla wrote:
No it's not, it's a good example. The truth always hurt, and they always deny it.
on March 10,2013 | 06:18AM
iansuen wrote:
Someone saying they are gay is an identity. Someone saying they are a pedophile/rapist would imply behavior.
on March 9,2013 | 05:32PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Says you.
on March 9,2013 | 06:43PM
DPK wrote:
iansuen: I have three friends that love each other. Does this mean that they can hope to get married?
on March 9,2013 | 07:33PM
ISCREAM wrote:
And a rapist isn't an identity??? Sexual identity is behavior based...heterosexual or homosexual...
on March 9,2013 | 08:01PM
onevoice82 wrote:
@iscream....it is because the people that were truly born gay(as opposed to those that have a learned behavior due to abuse) have a hard time understanding that it is a "misfire" in the brain during developement. It is very difficult to accept that you are born different and have to live a different way than the mainstream. It is very much a failure as humans to recognize this medical condition and indoctinate and raise our children with this condition to be loving, caring and productive people with a very special "different" role in society. Instead, we are teaching them that they should be the same even though they are not. Very very difficult pill to swallow and this statement will likely bring on comments of "hate" and "scorn" and phobia diatribes because the gay culture has already almost completely won the debate over people that dont want to take a stand.
on March 10,2013 | 08:34AM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
How will marriage equality harm you? Fact is it wont! If you think you need a law or a constitutional amendment to save or protect you marriage - hate to break it to you but you need a couples councilor not a constitutional amendment.
on March 9,2013 | 03:41PM
8082062424 wrote:
it no so much about harm but about marriage being redefined for a small group. give them all the same right but under another name and you would see it would not bother folks so much
on March 9,2013 | 04:24PM
iansuen wrote:
I see. So it's SEMANTICS you care so much about. Doesn't matter if it's called gay marriage or lesbian marriage or same-sex marriage or insert-the-blanks _______ marriage. It's all about semantics and folks like you get your panties in a bundle over such trivial things.
on March 9,2013 | 05:39PM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
You sound just like those that were fighting to keep interracial marriage illegal... You are in some great company!
on March 9,2013 | 06:21PM
ISCREAM wrote:
The question you might like to research is what is the historical basis for marriage...it was never a "state function" until they figured out the could "tax" it by charging a fee. If it is your right to get married...why do you need a state license, anyway? Shouldn't a "right" be without strings attached?
on March 9,2013 | 04:53PM
8082062424 wrote:
good point. but with this group it about benefits . which is given by the state.
on March 9,2013 | 05:10PM
aomohoa wrote:
The homophobic posters don't get that.
on March 9,2013 | 05:56PM
ISCREAM wrote:
So as long as someone gets the same benefits it doesn't matter...I think you are wrong there. The GLBT community absolutely desires to marry so that their sexual behavior will be legitimized....when in fact marriage was established within churches prior to the state taking it over for revenue generating.
on March 9,2013 | 08:05PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
But they don't get the same benefits.
on March 9,2013 | 08:39PM
mustangguru wrote:
If this wasn't a money issue, let's just take away the benefits for all couples, gay and straight, no benefits for everyone, would this be a problem? Hell no. It's really the issue that one group wants what another has. So take away all incentives for marriage, problem solved. Home ownership, same thing. Why is it homeowners get the benefits and others who rent don't. Take away the tax deduction and now everone is on the same footing. Plus the added benefit is all that new tax revenue to close the budget deficit without raising rates.
on March 10,2013 | 07:21AM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
No I asked the question I wanted answered and your failure to answer proves my point. Your marriage is the one that needs help and not a constitutional amendment.
on March 9,2013 | 06:20PM
onevoice82 wrote:
To me, it is all about children! No one should intentionally raise a child without a married man and woman period! The dynamic of that combination can never ever be recreated with two people of the same sex. Now do not start commenting about what if; the wife dies, what if the husband dies, isn't it better that an orphan have gay parents than no parents, there are evil horrible bad parents that are married raising children that beat them, blah blah blah....Obviously we all have to make the best out of situations that are out of our control but I repeat, no one should "intentially" bring forth a child out of wedlock between a man and a woman just because you "can" or you can "afford" it. That goes for all you hollywood types as well!
on March 10,2013 | 08:19AM
Ronin006 wrote:
It will harm me and millions of Americans who are into genealogical research. Can you imagine the horror and shock of future researchers who spend hours researching their family trees and find that their great great grandparents were both men or both women?
on March 9,2013 | 07:04PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Horroe and shock... yeah, that'll happen.
on March 9,2013 | 07:38PM
ISCREAM wrote:
As we can learn from the Bible, the ancient Israelites had a patriarchal family structure. The status of women was low—they were regarded as the property of their fathers or husbands and could do nothing without their consent. The main purpose of marriage was procreation and the perpetuation of a man's name. Every healthy person was expected to marry. Single men and women were despised.
on March 9,2013 | 08:12PM
ISCREAM wrote:
KTS your answer is that it will hurt the greater society...there is sufficient evidence in the fall of many great civilizations...Europe is almost there...Greece has not learned from their past.
on March 9,2013 | 08:17PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
Pop culture's current definition of marriage is that it's all about sex and money. No more is it about family, dedication, commitment, and struggle. Glad that marriage can continue to be redefined by our politicians or else we might actually place significance and responsibility to it.
on March 9,2013 | 05:21PM
Ronin006 wrote:
It is amazing what sodomy will get you.
on March 9,2013 | 06:55PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
How would you know unless you are speaking from experience?
on March 9,2013 | 07:39PM
mustangguru wrote:
I've read many of your comments over the years. Why the condescending attitude to everyone that is counter to your political ideology? The last I read there is still free speech in the country.
on March 10,2013 | 07:26AM
Anonymous wrote:
First, if equality under the law for our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters, parents, children, friends, and co-workers is a political ideology, so be it; guilty as charged.

Ronin006 and you and are free to say almost anything you want in this country and many of us fought for that right. And as long as you pay the subscription fee, you are free to post anything in this forum that passes muster from the SA monitor. But free speech also applies to countering speech you disagree with. You may see it as condescendig based on your own ideology, but I made sure it was a simple question when I asked it. Ronin006 speaks of sexual practices that are completely legal in this country and practiced by heterosexuals and homosexuals alike so I'm curious as to his/her basis of knowledge on the subject. If he/she doesn't want to marry someone of the same gender, he/she doesn't have to, but he/she should also mind his/her own business. He/she or you or anyone else doesn't have to answer as everyone in this forum, including me, can choose whom they engage with or ignore,


on March 10,2013 | 08:34AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
That "Anonymous" post is from me. Not sure why it didn't attribute my forum name to it.
on March 10,2013 | 09:01AM
Ronin006 wrote:
I am a he. Yes, DowntownGreen, homosexual acts have been decriminalized, but that does not make it morally right. America has lost its moral way. It now seems like anything goes. You are free to accept whatever values you want and so am I. I choose not to accept gay marriage as a value. I do agree that people with certain belief systems should mind their own business. It would be nice if gays and lesbians did that, but they are working very hard with the help of liberal politicians to force their lifestyle on everyone as main stream America. They need to go back to the days when what two consenting adults did in the privacy of their own bedrooms was no one else’s business and keep it there. Have a good evening.
on March 10,2013 | 06:38PM
localguy wrote:
Speaker John Boehner fails to understand Congress is behind the wasting of billions of tax dollars and responsible for the medical disaster at the NCC. Congress mismanages the USPS, responsible for changing laws resulting in the mortgage meltdown, kowtowed to the gun lobby so weapons searches be done by hand versus computers, set shoddy guidance for the TSA, on and on and on. Truth is Congress is the worst thing to happen to the USA, they just don't get it. Boehner would we wise to work with congress and fix all their mistakes before making more problems. Too bad Boehner's parents failed to use birth control.
on March 9,2013 | 07:28PM
hawaiikone wrote:
You do realize substituting "Obama" for "Boehner" would be equally as valid...
on March 9,2013 | 07:35PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Why pick on Boehner...why not Senator Reid???
on March 9,2013 | 08:19PM
mustangguru wrote:
Because republicans and organized religion are irrelevant.
on March 10,2013 | 07:24AM
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