Fringe Benefits and Same-Sex Marriages

Special Updates: Same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages,will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes (including employee benefits). More specific IRS guidance includes: 

Agency guidance released by the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS addresses the recognition of same-same marriage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined “spouse” as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife for purposes of federal law.

  • Same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes (including employee benefits), according toRevenue Ruling 2013-17.
  • The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
  • An employee who purchased same-sex spouse health coverage under his or her employer’s plan on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income, and may be able to claim a refund of income taxes paid on the premiums by filing an amended return.
    • Procedures for correcting overpayments related to payroll taxes paid on previously-taxed health insurance and fringe benefits provided to same-sex spouses are available in IRS Notice 2013-61 
  • Special Note: The IRS has issued a set of questions and answers, effective December 16, 2013, regarding the participation by same-sex spouses in cafeteria plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), and health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs). Subsequent Q&As clarify how the ruling affects qualified retirement plans.

Updated FAQs for same-sex spouses and FAQs for other same-sex couples are available from the IRS. For guidance on same-sex marriage laws specific to your state, visit our State Laws section, click on your state, and select “Same-Sex Relationships” from the left-hand navigation menu.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary