Defense of Marriage Act
Subscribe to Defense of Marriage Act's Posts

IRS Guidance on Employee Benefits Implications of Supreme Court Obergefell Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued Notice 2015-86, which provides some additional clarification, in the form of questions and answers, on the treatment of same-sex spouses under tax-qualified retirement plans and health and welfare plans, including cafeteria plans, as a result of the June 26, 2015, decision from the Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Read the full article.




Employee Benefits Implications of Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

On June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that it is unconstitutional for a state to ban same-sex couples from exercising the fundamental right to marry.  As a result of this decision, all states are now required to permit same-sex couples to marry and to recognize same-sex marriages validly entered into in other jurisdictions. Immediately prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, 37 states and the District of Columbia permitted same-sex marriage, meaning the impact of the Obergefell decision will be most significant in the remaining 13 states.

Read the full article.




Supreme Court to Review Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court of the United States announced on January 16, 2015, that it would review four cases challenging the constitutionality of state laws banning same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in November 2014 that the same-sex marriage bans in these states were constitutional, thereby creating a split of opinion among the federal circuit courts.

As of January 30, 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia.  In addition, Michigan is expected to soon begin recognizing 323 marriages that were performed there in March 2014 (during the one-day period after a district court found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and before an appellate court issued a stay of the district court ruling).

A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected in June 2015.  If the Supreme Court rules that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, the ruling will create precedent that will lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.  Same-sex couples would then be able to marry in any state and would be entitled to all of the rights, benefits and obligations that are extended to opposite-sex spouses under both federal and state laws.

Federal Law

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional (for more information, see McDermott’s On the Subject “Supreme Court Rules on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8”).  Section 3 of DOMA had provided that, for purposes of all federal laws, the word “marriage” means “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” and the word “spouse” refers “only to a person of the opposite-sex who is a husband or wife.”  Subsequent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Labor guidance clarified that, as a result of Windsor, favorable federal tax treatment of spousal benefit coverage would extend to all same-sex couples legally married in any jurisdiction with laws authorizing same-sex marriage, regardless of whether the couple currently resides in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized (see McDermott’s On the SubjectIRS Guidance Clarifies Retroactive Retirement Plan Impact of Supreme Court’s Windsor Ruling” for more information).  The most recent IRS guidance clarifies that, effective as of June 26, 2013, retirement plans must be administered in a manner that reflects the Windsorruling.

Next Steps for Employers

All employers should continue to monitor developments in this case and in state same-sex marriage laws.  The Supreme Court’s ruling could have significant consequences for employers in states where same-sex marriage has not been legalized or that have not otherwise extended spousal benefit coverage to same-sex spouses.  An employer that currently extends benefit coverage to unmarried same-sex partners would need to consider whether to continue offering such benefits if all employees can marry and thereby receive spousal coverage under the employer’s benefit plans.




Developments Impacting Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses

As federal and state agencies and courts further examine the implications of the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling on same-sex marriage in U.S. v. Windsor, the laws and regulations governing employee benefits for employees’ same-sex spouses continue to be clarified.  As a result, employers should monitor additional guidance as it is issued and continue to reevaluate the same-sex spousal benefits offered under their employee benefit plans.

Read the full article.




IRS Guidance Clarifies Retroactive Retirement Plan Impact of Supreme Court’s Windsor Ruling

The Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2014-19 and a set of Frequently Asked Questions on April 4, 2014, clarifying certain retroactive retirement plan implications of the Supreme Court’s Windsor ruling.  The guidance requires plans to be administered to reflect the Windsorruling effective as of June 26, 2013, but does not require plans to retroactively recognize same-sex spouses prior to that date.  In addition, the IRS clarified the requirements for any Windsor-related plan amendments.

Read the full article.




IRS Guidance on Employment and Income Tax Refunds on Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

Employers extending benefit coverage to employees’ same-sex spouses and partners should review their payroll procedures to ensure that such coverages are properly taxed for federal income and FICA tax purposes. Employers also should review the options in Notice 2013-61 and consider filing claims for refunds or adjustments of FICA overpayments.

To read the full article, click here.




View From McDermott: Dollars and Cents, the Cost of Benefit Coverage

Many employers have begun the process of evaluating their options and obligations with respect to extending benefit coverage under employer-sponsored benefit plans to same-sex spouses in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Section 3 of DOMA provided that for all purposes of federal law the word “marriage” meant “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” and the word “spouse” referred “only to a person of the opposite-sex who is a husband or wife.” In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of DOMA was an unconstitutional “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”  The effect of this ruling is that federal law now generally will defer to state law definitions of marriage, including same-sex marriage, which has been legalized in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of evaluating options for extending benefit coverage to same-sex spouses, employers need to consider the financial implications of such benefits. These implications include costs the employer will incur in extending such benefits, as well as the financial impact on employees who opt to utilize such benefits. Many of these costs are dependent upon the spousal benefits the employer currently offers, although the relevant considerations and cost estimates outlined below may be helpful resources.

To read the full article, click here.




IRS and DOL Guidance Clarifies Employee Benefits Impact of Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling

Recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides some initial clarifications on how U.S. v. Windsor will affect benefits for same-sex spouses.  The guidance provides that same-sex couples legally married in a jurisdiction with laws authorizing same-sex marriage will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the couple resides in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized.

To read the full article, click here.




Treasury Department & IRS Issue DOMA Guidance – Adopt a “State of Celebration” Approach

In Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Revenue Ruling 2013-17, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS today ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.  Importantly, the ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.  In other words, the Treasury Department and IRS have adopted a “state of celebration” rule rather than a “state of residence” rule.  Click here for IRS answers to some frequently asked questions.

As a result, it will be possible for same-sex couples to be what we call “federally-recognized same-sex spouses” even if they are not treated as married in the state in which they currently reside.  That situation in fact, could become extremely common if same-sex couples travel to a jurisdiction solely to get married and obtain federal tax recognition of their marriage.  (See the Obergefell case, discussed in “Two Federal Courts Recognize Same-Sex Spousal Rights for Residents of States Not Permitting Same-Sex Marriage” as one recent example.)

This situation will require employers in all states – not just the 13 states (and the District of Columbia) that currently permit same-sex marriage – to prepare for same-sex couples to request spousal benefits under the employer’s various benefit programs, particularly those programs where preferential spousal treatment is required by federal law (e.g., spousal protection under qualified retirement plans, special enrollment and COBRA rights under health and welfare plans, etc.)  The IRS intends to issue further guidance on the retroactive implications of this position.

Additionally, this new guidance will allow same-sex spouses to claim refunds for open tax years for income and employment taxes they paid on imputed income on the value of health coverage.  Similarly, there is a procedure for employers to obtain employment tax refunds based on coverage provided to employees’ same-sex spouses.

Finally, note that the IRS guidance does not apply to registered domestic partners, civil unions or other similar relationships recognized under state law but that are not denominated as marriage under that state’s law.

Further McDermott guidance on this important development will be forthcoming shortly.  In the meantime, please contact the authors or your regular McDermott attorney if you have questions.




Two Federal Courts Recognize Same-Sex Spousal Rights for Residents of States Not Permitting Same-Sex Marriage

by Joseph S. Adams, Todd A. Solomon and Jacob Mattinson

Obergefell v. Kasich and Cozen O’Connor v. Tobits may reflect a growing trend of courts and other bodies to recognize same-sex marriages validly celebrated elsewhere even if the couple’s current state of residence does not recognize such marriages. Pending further guidance, employers should begin discussing plan amendments and administrative procedures that may be necessary to clarify benefit eligibility for same-sex spouses and partners.

To read the full article, click here.




STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES