(image by South Carolina Equality)
A court decision that benefits same-sex married couples regarding federal taxes might not have the same effect on the state level in South Carolina. And on January 9, an advocacy group called for the public to do something about it.
The June 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allows same-sex married couples to file with a married deduction on federal income tax, removing previous denial of that right from Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
A recent proposal from South Carolina's Dept. of Revenue would specifically deny that same benefit from its own income tax, however, requiring gay and lesbian married couples to continue filing state tax returns as "single" or "head of household."
The result won't be just high state taxes for gay spouses, though, says South Carolina Equality, a non-profit advocacy group for LGBT rights. It will also require longer filing times and higher costs to prepare returns, the organization says.
In a January 9 press release, SC Equality encourages the public to contact SCDOR, which is accepting comments on the proposal until January 17.
SC Equality's website also has a page listing arguments, as well as an email that visitors can send to SCDOR directly from its site.
Ryan Wilson, executive director of SC Equality, offers a personal example of the inconvenience.
"This ruling will directly impact me and my husband because we use a tax preparer--costing us more time to separate our finances and more money to have our taxes prepared than our straight friends or neighbors. SCDOR should have a tax policy that is clear and uniform for all legally married couples."
Filed on Jan. 2, 2014, SCDOR's proposal for Revenue Ruling #13 states:
"Since South Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex couples that file as married for federal income tax purposes must file separate from South Carolina income tax purposes(.)"
To correctly complete state tax returns, then, partners of a gay or lesbian marriage would each have to recalculate personal net income from federal tax forms using a "single" or "head of household" personal deduction. Thus, their net income levels would appear larger on state returns, subjecting them to higher state taxes, which would also have to be filed separately.
Notes Wilson, "This is where the extra time and costs for tax preparer will come in. SCDOR is telling gay couples they don't care how much work or cost it takes; they cannot accept their married federal return, even to use it to calculate tax rates. They will continue to accept straight couples' returns no matter what, though. There are now two separate systems for dealing with legally-married South Carolinians."
The proposal does not intend to discriminate, SCDOR says. Instead, according to spokesperson Samantha Creek, it's simply to recognize SCDOR's obligation to state law.
Article XVII, Section 15, of the South Carolina Constitution says the state will only recognize "marriage between one man and one woman(.)"
Because some who are eligible for the new federal ruling might assume that it's also applicable to state taxes, leading to filings that will need correction, Cheek implies that SCDOR hopes the proposed ruling would avoid difficulties for itself and taxpayers while its office simply operates according to the state constitution.
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