Durbin, Duckworth Reintroduce Bill To Provide Equal Tax Treatment For Married Same-Sex Couples

Bill would permit same-sex couples previously barred from filing taxes jointly to submit amended returns dating back to year of marriage

WASHINGTON – During LGBTQ Pride Month, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), today reintroduced the Refund Equality Act.  This legislation 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.  The House Ways and Means Committee will vote on the bill today. 

“It’s an injustice that LGBTQ Americans continue to receive unequal treatment under the law, and this bill makes clear that married same-sex couples should have the exact same tax benefits as everyone else,” Durbin said.  “I’m proud to introduce this bill, and I hope that Senator McConnell will allow us to address this disparity in the Senate.” 

“If we’re serious about promoting equality for same-sex couples going forward, we have to acknowledge and right past wrongs. These families were denied equal treatment under the law, and they deserve the opportunity to amend their past returns,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to help introduce this legislation with Senators Warren and Durbin during Pride Month and I urge Senate Republicans to let us vote to address this injustice immediately.”

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.  AfterWindsor, 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 legislation is cosponsored by 39 Senators, including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Robert Casey (D-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).