How does the IRS define a "husband and wife" for tax and estate planning purposes?
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage has become the law of the land.
Federal laws and regulations are now being promulgated to effectuate recognition of same-sex marriage. In proposed regulations, the IRS has defined the terms “husband” and “wife” to be an individual lawfully married to another individual. A “husband and wife” refers to two individuals lawfully married to each other, regardless of gender.
The IRS drew a distinction between marriage and other same-sex relationships such as domestic partnerships and civil unions. The latter will be not accorded marital status.
According to the proposed regulations:
Some couples have chosen to enter into a civil union or registered domestic partnership even when they could have married, and some couples who are in a civil union or registered domestic partnership have chosen not to convert those relationships into a marriage even when they have had the opportunity to do so. In many cases, this choice was deliberate, and couples who enter into civil unions or registered domestic partnerships may have done so with the expectation that their relationship will not be treated as a marriage for purposes of federal law.
Bottom line: the IRS will recognize the marital status of a couple, without regard to gender, if parties have legally wed. Relationships lacking the formality of marriage will not enjoy its legal benefits for, among other things, income tax purposes and estate planning.
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