Kendra and I have been married for almost seven years; yet today, we did something for the very first time as a married couple. We filed a joint federal tax return.
Though this may not seem like an exciting adventure, for us, it marked an amazing milestone. When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June, our marriage was recognized by the federal government. Suddenly, doors that had been closed to us began swinging open.
Until this year, taxes were a weekend long process that included forced tax-fraud. I would collect all of our documents and settle in front of the computer with a latte in hand, prepared to run several different returns. The first two were individual federal returns for me and for Kendra. Despite being legally married in Massachusetts, the lack of federal recognition meant we had to file as single. Yet here was the conundrum – Massachusetts required married couples to file joint returns. So I had to create a third federal return, one that would never be used, that included both of us. From that, I could file our state tax return. Needless to say, taxes gave me a headache and I drank a lot of lattes during the process.
The Gay Tax
The perks of the downfall of DOMA aren’t limited to filing taxes. When Addison was born, Kendra and I switched to a family health insurance plan under Kendra. Normally health insurance premiums are taken out of your paycheck pre-tax, but not for us. Because we were not legally recognized by the federal government, Kendra and Addie’s part of the premium (not sure how they even calculated that!) was taken out, then Kendra’s pay was taxed, then my part was taken out of the check. Getting insurance through my wife was considered “extra-income” – a benefit that needed to be taxed. Yup – we were being taxed extra for being gay.
My Almost-Failed Tax Break Attempt
I am Addie’s non-biological mom; her other mother. While Massachusetts law recognizes me as her parent, and my name is on her birth certificate, I chose to adopt her. Why? Because the federal government didn’t recognize our relationship. I feared what would happen if anything should happen to Kendra and we weren’t in a state that recognized our marriage. Losing Addie was a very real possibility.
We shelled out $1500, and made a visit to court to legally protect our family. Yet when I claimed the adoption fees on my tax return, I was audited by the IRS. For six months I had to fax paperwork, invoices, copies of the adoption papers, and explain Addison’s adoption. Why? Because you cannot claim adoption expenses when adopting the child of your spouse. Ok, fine. I get that. Except, according to the federal government, Kendra and I weren’t even married! Eventually the IRS conceded, and I got my refund, (though with no interest).
Even now that our marriage, and my relationship to our newborn twins, Evan and Kate, are federally recognized, I am choosing to adopt them. There are many states in which I am not legally considered their parent and I love my children too much to take any chances.
This time, however, I will not get a tax break for their adoptions. Though I long for the day when married gay and lesbian non-bio parents do not have to adopt their own kids, right now I am living in the moment, being grateful that my Married Filing Joint, federally recognized, non-fraudulent taxes, are filed. Bring on the refund!