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Same Sex Marriages now recognized for Federal Tax purposes

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Same Sex Marriages and what it means for your Qualified Retirement Plan.  [Revenue Ruling 2013-17]

On August 29, 2013 the IRS announced that Same-Sex marriages will now be recognized for Federal tax purposes as of September 16, 2013. Furthermore, same-sex marriages will be recognized regardless of their state of residence.  The IRS will, “look to state or foreign law to determine whether individuals are married,” and the state needn’t legalize same-sex marriages in order for the participant residing in that state to qualify.

“Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes,” this will include; income, gift, and estate taxes.  “The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor,” which will include taxpayer’s filing status, dependency exemptions, standard deductions, employee benefits, IRA contributions, earned income tax credits, and child tax credits.

What rules apply to qualified retirement plans?

A qualified retirement plan must treat a same-sex spouse as a spouse for purposes of satisfying the federal tax laws relating to qualified retirement plans.A qualified retirement plan must recognize a same-sex marriage that was validly entered into in a jurisdiction whose laws authorize the marriage, even if the married couple lives in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.A person who is in a registered domestic partnership or civil union is not  considered to be a spouse for purposes of applying the federal tax law requirements relating to qualified retirement plans, regardless of whether that person’s partner is of the opposite or same sex.

Some examples of the consequences of these rules for qualified retirement plans:

Plan A, a qualified defined benefit plan, is maintained by Employer X, which operates only in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, Plan A must treat a participant who is married to a spouse of the same sex under the laws of a different jurisdiction as married for purposes of applying the qualification requirements that relate to spouses.Plan B is a qualified defined contribution plan and provides that the participant’s account must be paid to the participant’s spouse upon the participant’s death unless the spouse consents to a different beneficiary.  Plan B does not provide for any annuity forms of distribution. Plan B must pay this death benefit to the same-sex surviving spouse of any deceased participant. Plan B is not required to provide this death benefit to a surviving registered domestic partner of a deceased participant. However, Plan B is allowed to make a participant’s registered domestic partner the default beneficiary who will receive the death benefit unless the participant chooses a different beneficiary.

The IRS is anticipated to follow up with further information and guidance relating to plan corrections and their deadlines.  In the meantime we’ve listed a few links you may want to read below.

References & Resources:


Revenue Ruling 2013-17


1040X Form -to file a refund claim for income taxes

Form 843– to file a refund claim for gift or estate taxes

Amended Returns

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