Tax tips for same-sex couples

Some of the special rights that heterosexual couples enjoy have to do with taxes. But depending on circumstances, gay and lesbian couples who marry may run into the “marriage penalty.”

Tax law was designed for June and Ward Cleaver. Dad is the breadwinner. Mom stays home and raises the kids. If she does have a job, she earns a lot less. The marriage penalty happens when both partners earn about the same amount. So if both partners are equal contributors, monetarily speaking, they’re better off unmarried for income tax purposes.

If a couple has children, a married couple takes a deduction on their joint tax form. Gay or lesbian couples with joint custody cannot. However, the deduction may have a larger impact on one tax form than on the other and either may take the deduction. Check with an accountant.

If you took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit to buy a new home, that credit must be split. The IRS has issued guidelines on that for “single” people who have purchased property with other “single” people.

The IRS allows a single person to file as “head of household” if that person has contributed more than other members of the household toward upkeep. Because of deductions, tax rates may be lower for head of household. Check with an accountant.

—  David Taffet