Warren Thinks LGBT Couples Should Get a Check to Make up for Lost Marriage Tax Benefits: 5 Things to Know

Elizabeth Warren
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to pay back LGBT couples for taxes they paid into the federal government, which they paid at a higher rate because they were denied joint status.

While reparations for slavery were front and center during last week’s congressional testimony, Warren wants to see reparations paid to LGBT couples who were denied the marriage tax breaks.

Warren is the first 2020 presidential candidate to propose a policy of this type, and her announcement has been getting mixed reviews. Here are five things to know about her plan:

What is the issue?

In the United States, married couples are allowed to file joint taxes, which can result in a lesser payment to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because of tax deductions. The tax perks of being married range from small benefits, like only having to file one tax return, to more substantial benefits, like the potential to drop down a tax bracket.

The problem is that there were couples legally married in eight states following Massachusetts’ decision to allowed same-sex marriages in 2004, but the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented same-sex couples from filing their federal taxes together.

This policy stood until it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor in 2013. While same-sex couples could amend their taxes, they were only allowed to file three years’ worth of amends. In states like Massachusettes, couples lost out on joint filing benefits from 2004 to 2010.

What is Warren’s plan?

Warren wants to return the excess money paid into the IRS by LGBT couples while they couldn’t legally marry. The senator introduced a bill that would allow couples to amend their taxes from the years they were denied joint status while legally married in their home state.

In a statement, Warren said:

The federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade. We need to call out that discrimination and to make it right — Congress should pass the Refund Equality Act immediately.

This would likely result in large tax returns to same-sex couples that were not allowed to make a joint filing. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the IRS would have to return as much as $57 million owed to same-sex couples if Warren’s bill became law.

Who would qualify?

This is not a mass tax return to all LGBT couples. The scope of Warren’s bill is limited to just those who were legally married in their home states prior to the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA in 2013. Those states include Massachusettes, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and Maine.

However, couples in New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and Maine should have had at least one year to amend their taxes, considering they were only allowed to marry within the three-year window following the DOMA ruling, so it is not clear if they will be included.

Her plan does not include long-term LGBT couples who were denied marriage licenses prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015.

What are people saying about Warren’s plan?

Many see Warren’s plan as a concrete way to return tax dollars to LGBT couples that were legally married but not legally allowed to file joint taxes and make up for the disadvantages caused by the former policy.

Warren’s plan has faced a lot of criticism from those who claim she is just jumping on the reparations bandwagon to pander to the LGBT community ahead of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Others noted that LGBT couples would likely not recover as much from the IRS as they could lose if Warren makes good on her promise to repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

While Warren’s plan is technically a reparation strategy for the LGBT community, it differs greatly from the racial reparations proposed by some Democrats to right the wrongs of slavery.

How is this different than plans for racial reparations?

The main difference lies in the scope of Warren’s plan.

The senator has a clearly defined group of people who would be able to amend their taxes and receive the return. A plan for racial reparations isn’t as cut-and-dry because there are no living slaves in the U.S. and it is hard to know where to draw the line.

No one has come up with a concrete answer for what qualifies someone for a racial reparation, which is why Congress has resorted to voting to fund a study on reparations rather than an actual plan.

What do you think?

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Ken
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Ken

This foolish pandering is clearly denied implementation by the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws (ie retroactive laws) at both the federal and state levels.

John
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John

You are completely out of you mind true socialism go to Siberia

Linda
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Linda

Personally, I think there should be no special tax breaks just because you are married. Everyone, single, married (straight or otherwise). families with children, families without children, should all be on the exact same footing tax wise.

john marker
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john marker

this idiot doesnt realize that there has always been a marriage penalty in the tax code

John
Guest
John

I will sue each and every supposed lawmaker that votes for this or slavery reparations since my family did not come here until the 1870s.

Rick Smith
Guest
Rick Smith

I should get reparations for the 2 years I was in the Army. I earned substantially less than I would have outside the Army.

Cherl
Member

Poor Lizbeth! Pandering at its highest level is so pathetic. How does she expect to accomplish this? Never mind she will never be president. Listening to her voice alone would be pure punishment.

S Helm
Guest
S Helm

I don’t know what tax code she’s using but my husband and I get screwed because we’re married. You never heard of the marriage tax penalty? This woman is a moron.

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