With an increasing number of states recognizing legal marriage for same-sex couples, the primary impact of the ruling has to do with federal recognition of those marriages, which ultimately can have financial implications for these couples.
Below are some of the most important considerations:
Income-tax filing status. Legally married same-sex couples will generally file their federal tax return as a married couple, either married filing jointly or married filing separately. It's important to note that many federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, will recognize same-sex marriage based on the "state of celebration" standard. This means that as long as their marriage took place where it is legally recognized, the couple will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the couple resides in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized. If this applies to you, it's important to review your tax withholding. If you live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, you will need to check your state's rules for filing. Depending on the state, you may need to file as a single tax filer.
Estate-tax marital deduction. Same-sex couples with a recognized legal marriage can take advantage of the unlimited marital deductions for estate taxes and for gift taxes at the federal level. This means that if one spouse dies, the other can inherit any amount of cash or assets with no federal estate-tax liability, among other benefits.
Social Security benefits. Same-sex couples can now apply for spousal Social Security benefits and may be able to claim a survivor's benefit when one spouse dies. The Social Security Administration is also processing some claims for Supplemental Security Income for individuals in a same-sex marriage. While the Social Security Administration is still working to finalize all the rules regarding same-sex couples, you should apply for benefits that you may qualify to receive, in order to reserve your filing date even if your eligibility status is uncertain. Visit www.ssa.gov/same-sexcouples for updates on rules and policies.