Last week, Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren reintroduced the Refund Equality Act. If passed, the bill would give same-sex couples the ability to amend all of their previous tax returns, and potentially receive refunds from the IRS, for every year where the couple was married but could not file jointly before the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed.
“The federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade,” said Warren in a statement, according to a report by NBC News. “We need to call out that discrimination and to make it right — Congress should pass the Refund Equality Act immediately.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision on the United States v. Windsor – which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act – 10 states allowed same-sex couples to marry legally. However, those couples could not file federal tax returns jointly, as the federal government did not recognize the union as legal.
After the Supreme Court decision, the IRS allowed same-sex couples to amend three years of tax returns, giving them the opportunity to potentially receive refunds based on a change to their filing status.
However, same-sex couples in certain states, including Massachusetts, Warren’s home state, may have been married for longer. The Refund Equality Act would remove the three-year limit on amending the returns, and could potentially result in $57 million in refunds for same-sex couples.
“It wasn’t until marriage equality became law that gay & lesbian couples could jointly file tax returns—so they paid more in taxes,” wrote Warren in a tweet. “Our government owes them more than $50M for the years our discriminatory tax code left them out. We must right these wrongs.”
Last week, Rep. Judy Chu introduced companion legislation. The PRIDE Act of 2019 would also address the federal tax code, allowing same-sex couples who were married before the US v. Windsor decision to amend tax returns beyond the three-year period.