Shaheen, Warren Reintroduce Legislation to Provide Equal Tax Treatment for Married Same-Sex Couples

June 14, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced legislation with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and a group of Senators to provide equal tax treatment for married same-sex couples. The Refund Equality Act would ensure that legally-married same-sex couples -- who until the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly -- are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage. 

“For years, same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized under state law were required to file their federal taxes as individuals, forcing them to pay more because the federal government did not recognize their marriage,” said Senator Shaheen. “Let’s call this what it is: discrimination. It’s past time for Congress to right this wrong by passing the Refund Equality Act to ensure same-sex couples can claim the tax refunds they earned. I urge my fellow Senators to support this important legislation without delay.”  

Before the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor, a same-sex couple, legally married under state law, could not file federal income taxes as a married couple. After Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published guidance that clarified the IRS's recognition of same-sex marriages and stated that married same-sex couples could amend previously-filed tax returns to claim refunds or credits due as a result of corrected marital status. 

Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating only back to three years, but the IRS lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor are unable to claim refunds for all years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $57 million in refunds to which they are entitled. 

The text of the bill can be viewed here

A fact sheet on the bill can be viewed here