No revenue effect seen in new marriages

BY SHAWN GUDE | MAY 04, 2009 7:30 AM

For gay-marriage supporters, last month’s ruling brought jubilation; for opponents, outrage.

But for officials at the Iowa Department of Tax Revenue, it was treated analytically, as they worked to assess the implications of last month’s controversial ruling.

“Our director and our administrators and our attorney sat down and perused Iowa tax law to determine what, if any impact” the ruling would have and what “changes would have to occur,” Iowa Department of Revenue spokeswoman Renee Mulvey said.

After weeks of careful examination, department officials expect little revenue change in state income taxes, despite Iowa’s recent same-sex marriage ruling and licensing.

The relatively static revenue can be attributed to a tax filing procedure in Iowa — termed status three — Mulvey said.

Married couples in the state have the option of filing a joint return, status two; filing separately on a combined return, status three; or filing separate returns.

Mulvey said tax experts with the department advise individuals who are hitched to file under status three because of the monetary benefits that typically come with the status.

“It takes away the marriage-penalty concept,” Mulvey said.

Because most gay couples would essentially still file as individuals, the state isn’t expected to take in significantly more.

Iowa City resident Eliot Blake said while he and his husband have thought about the possible tax implications, he was unsure of what impact his marriage will ultimately have on the couples’ pocketbooks.

“We haven’t talked about it to a tax person yet,” said Blake, who is an assistant professor of English at Kirkwood Community College. “Until the federal taxes change, it’s not going to matter much.”

Because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, gay couples will still have to file as individuals on their federal tax forms.

The new same-sex couples could alter the state’s inheritance tax, though. Iowa spouses inherit estates tax-free, as do their children.

Consequently, the state is set to lose revenue that it would have siphoned from individuals inheriting money. As a result of the ruling, any reference to “husband” or “wife” on tax forms will be dropped in favor of the gender-neutral “spouse.”

A University of California-Los Angeles study estimated the state will take in approximately $1.3 million in additional income taxes from newly wed same-sex couples filing jointly. The study projected that extra cash to be wiped out by the roughly $1.4 million in inheritance taxes.

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