I was in the USA recently and was interested to see an article in the newspaper USA Today reporting that same-sex couples sometimes face extra difficulties when it comes to paying their taxes. In the US, although there is an equivalent to PAYE (where your employer deducts your tax for you), almost all taxpayers complete a tax return detailing their income, allowable deductions, and the tax they should pay. This might be more or less than what your employer deducted, so you may have to pay the difference or request a refund.

The problem for same-sex couples occurs because of two details of the American tax / legal system. Firstly, married couples can file a joint tax return, rather than filing two separate returns. Filing a return can be a laborious process, and sometimes it is necessary to pay a tax consultant to complete it for you, so filing only one can save time and money. Sometimes, filing a joint return actually leads to less tax being owed, an obvious benefit. Secondly, same-sex marriage is not recognised by the federal government (i.e. the country) but is recognised by some states (e.g. Massachusetts). What this all adds up to is same-sex couples having to file different tax returns at the state and federal levels – a joint return for their state (if it allows them to submit joint returns) and separate returns for the federal government. This can cost couples more in tax consultant fees (as there are more forms to submit) and can cost them more in tax as they miss out on the tax benefits of being a married couple.

At the moment it doesn’t appear that this problem is going to go away – not soon, in any case. You can learn more about US Federal Income Tax on the US Salary Calculator.

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Foreign Currency, Income Tax

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