The IRS Moves Toward Income Tax Equality for Same-Sex Couples Despite DOMA

This article was written by Marisa Catherine Nelson and published in the University of San Francisco Law Review in the spring of 2011.

It begins by giving an overview of the background of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), including the relevant constitutional law. It then describes the various challenges that have been made against DOMA, including lawsuits and recent changes in public opinion, state law, and the political arena.

The article then goes on to describe a Private Letter Ruling issued by the IRS in 2010, which changed the way Registered Domestic Partners in California report income on their federal tax returns by applying California's community property laws to domestic partners in California. Previously, in accordance with DOMA, the IRS treated all same-sex couples as legally separate individuals, and did not acknowledge their relationship.

This was a big change in policy by the IRS, which was quickly extended to apply to Nevada and Washington as well as California. The article concludes with an analysis of the future of DOMA in light of this Private Letter Ruling and the other changes which have been occuring across the country over the past few years, and explains why Marisa believes that it is inevitable that DOMA will be repealed or struck down in the near future. Until then, this Private Letter Ruling is one of many small changes that are ever so slowly moving us towards equality.

You can read the full article here.