Same-sex couples who marry legally will be given the same federal tax benefits as traditional married couples, the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday.
"Today's ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,"said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a statement.
The Treasury Department and IRS ruling assures tax benefits for all legally married same-sex couples in an effort to ensure their ability to move freely throughout the country without altering their federal filing status.
The administration said that same-sex married couples may begin filing their federal income tax return using either the "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" filing status for the 2013 year.
They are entitled to amend previously filed income returns to reflect their marriage status. The statue of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed, two years from the date the tax was paid or whichever comes later. Refund claims can still be filed for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Some individuals may have special circumstances that allow them to file claims from 2009 and earlier.
The ruling implements the July Supreme Court decision that invalidated a key section of the 17 year old Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal tax benefits to married same-sex couples in a dozen states.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage for their spouse's nursing home care.
Previously, same-sex couples on Medicare enrolled in an Advantage plan were not guaranteed equal access to nursing home care, forcing them to either receive care in a different nursing home than their spouse, or dropping out of the Medicare Advantage plan and paying out-of-pocket for care in the same home.
"Today's announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court's decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of marriage equality campaign organization Freedom to Marry, said in a statement he commended the administration's implementation of the Supreme Court's decision, but called for further action to extend tax benefits toward individuals in diverse relationship statuses.
"The fact that this new respect applies only to married couples – not those joined by domestic partnerships or civil unions – highlights the need for an America where everyone can marry the person they love in any state and have that marriage respected at all levels of government," he said.