DOMA repeal means tax changes for couples


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A dimly lit room in the Iowa City Public Library was filled with same-sex married couples who were all asking themselves the same question — “Where do we go from here?”

DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was ruled unconstitutioanl by the Supreme Court in June. It had previously prevented same-sex married couples from being recognized as “spouses” in regard to federal laws and prohibited them from receiving marriage benefits.

Its being struck down has brought many changes for the LGBTQ community, but one of the major differences comes in the way of filing taxes.

Donna Red Wing, the director of Iowa LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa, said this is the first of many steps in the fight for equality.

“We are winning,” she said. “Whenever you started your activism, we probably weren’t winning, but now we are.”

Before DOMA, same-sex marriage was not recognized at the federal level, so legally married couples were forced to file as “single.” After the ruling, they can file jointly as a married couple.

On Oct. 25, two officials from the Des Moines area came to help answer Iowa City citizen’s questions on these matters.

“This will simplify tax time for millions of people nationwide,” said Jason Dinesen of Dinesen Tax & Accounting. “I’ve spent four years researching the ins and outs of this, and now I get to help people kind of unwind everything. Going forward, they can lead a normal tax life the same way as any other married couple.”

Dinesen feels although some accounting officials have been proactive in this there is a learning curve.

“I get contacted every now and then with questions,” he said. “Not all accountants are gay-friendly necessarily, so there’s a lot of education that needs to be done in the accounting community about what this means.”

Another aspect of the high court’s ruling is the ability to amend past taxes. Couples may go back as far as 2010 to gain tax refunds they may have benefited from, had they filed jointly.

Area accounting firm Terry, Lockridge, & Dunn has made sure its clients were able to reap these benefits.

“We were actually way out in front,” said founder and partner Timothy Terry. “Not another firm in the country was advocating early last year for clients to be filing protected claims if the courts were to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Terry said the company has had a significant population of same-sex married couples, and the members felt compelled to be proactive in educating their clients.

He further hopes other accountants will follow the firm’s example in embracing these changes.

“To be perfectly honest, there is judgment at times because of personal biases, [and that] can have an adverse impact on these clients,” he said. “From my perspective, my profession has not been as proactive and forward as I think they should be. I think there's been a lag in acceptance and understanding.”

Iowa City community member Angela Beaman has been with her partner for three years, and they will be married in May. She said before coming to the educational event, she feared speaking with an accounting official.

“I’ve been nervous and afraid of their response,” she said. “With my own personal experiences with health care and other law enforcement entities, in and outside of Iowa, I’ve learned to be guarded with disclosing who I am.”

However after the event, she said she had an abundance of confidence.

“This is really, really exciting and very empowering,” she said. “We were really unsure about state taxes, but now we have those answers. We know what to do now, and we have a lot more confidence.”

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