Utah Allows Joint Tax Filing By Same-Sex Married Couples

January 23, 2014

Our report listing whether states allow joint filing by same-sex married couples was held up a few weeks by events in Utah. On December 20, 2013, Utah’s constitutional ban on recognizing any relationship other than marriage between one man and one woman was struck down, and several hundred same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses. On January 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed future marriage license issuances but left the existing licenses in limbo.

Rumor was that the Utah Tax Commission was about to issue guidance that those who managed to get a license before the end of 2013 would be able to file jointly, but on January 8, the Governor’s chief of staff issued a memorandum instructing all state officers not to recognize any same-sex marriage in any way. Our report came out on January 14, labeling Utah’s guidance as “unclear,” as the Governor’s chief of staff is not a constitutional officer, and because of the likelihood of further litigation. (Indeed, a lawsuit about this guidance was filed Tuesday.)

On January 15, the day after our report was released, the Utah Tax Commission issued new guidance that they will now allow joint filing by eligible same-sex couples:

Same-sex couples who are eligible to file a joint federal income tax return and who electto file jointly, may also file a joint 2013 Utah Individual Income Tax return as provided in Utah Code § 59-10-503. Eligible married couples may file a joint return if they are married as of the close of the tax year. (As of December 31, 2013, the Supreme Court had not yet issued its stay of the District Court’s injunction.)

The legal rationale is that the decision about who is married or who is not is as of calendar year 2013, and since the Supreme Court stay came several days later, it does not affect it. The notice explicitly repeals their previous guidance not allowing joint filing by same-sex couples, issued October 9, 2013. The revenue ruling seems correct on the law and the Utah Tax Commission should be commended for issuing this clarifying guidance.

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