IRS Makes Gay Parents 'Lie,' Shortchanging 2 Million Children

PHOTO: Tom Bourdon, right, and his husband Jimmy are raising two children, Lukas and May.
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Tom Bourdon and his husband Jimmy have been legally married for seven years and are raising two children in a home they jointly own in suburban Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004.

But this weekend, as they finish up their taxes, filing a joint state return as a married couple, they will have to essentially lie to Uncle Sam about the most essential aspects of their life.

They will file two separate tax returns and "divide up" their two children -- Lukas, 2, and Maya, 6 months -- so that they can claim child-related exemptions, deductions, and credits.

Married same-sex couples cannot file jointly, and instead must misrepresent themselves as "single" on their federal tax forms, sacrificing the $1,000 deduction for married couple

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted by Congress in 1996, does not legally recognize their marriage and so the couples can't take advantage of any of the tax breaks afforded other families in the United States.

"It feels really strange to be forced to lie," said Bourdon, 36 and director of the LGBT Center at Tufts University.

"Ethically speaking, we are doing what we are supposed to do and at the same time be accurate," he said. "It's a Catch-22. The government forces you into it and there's no way around it … but we are literally not recognized."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, convened a committee to defend the act, in spite of President Barack Obama's directive to the State Department to no longer uphold the constitutionality of the law.

"It is regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy," Boehner said in a statement to the Washington Post. "The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts -- not by the president unilaterally -- and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution."

Two million American children are being raised in families where either an adult or a couple is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the U.S. Census. They are part of the changing cultural landscape where only 69 percent of children live with married heterosexual parents.

A report released today, "Unequal Taxation and Undue Burdens for LGBT Families," argues laws have not kept up with these families. Not only are they being treated unfairly by the federal tax codes, but their children are denied the economic benefits that are afforded all other American families.

The federal government provides families with important tax credits and deductions -- worth about $133 billion -- to help them raise their children, according to the report.

The Tax Foundation estimates an average-income family gets about $16,781 in tax relief each year.

The report is a supplement to the "All Children Matter" report and was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress -- all advocacy groups.

The report estimates that the LGBT families can be shortchanged anywhere between $1,490 and $6,209 a year, compared with heterosexual families.

"LGBT families raising kids have an unfair burden, simply because of what their families look like and who they love," said Emily Hecht McGowan, director of public policy at the Family Equity Council.

"The law has many unintended consequences," she said. "Kids are getting hurt by these laws."

U.S. Census data reveals that same-sex parents are most likely to raise children in Mississippi, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina. In about half of those states, an estimated 1 in 4 children live in poverty.

Same-sex families also have difficulty securing legal ties to their adopted children in many of these states, posing an additional economic and emotional burden. The IRS requires a child to be biologically related or legally adopted to declare tax credits.

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