The US Supreme Court ruled today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. That makes it appear that same-sex couples should be able to file joint tax returns. There’s only one problem: The IRS computers likely would reject such a return if it were filed today.
Suppose Jane and Susan are a legally married same sex couple. They are both on extension for this year. They hear about the decision today and think, “Great! We can efile our returns jointly, both federal and our state.” While legally I believe that’s correct (unless their state has some other law prohibiting same-sex married couples from filing jointly), the IRS computers haven’t been reprogrammed yet to take the return. I would urge same sex couples to wait for the IRS to acknowledge the ruling and an IRS announcement stating that IRS computers are now ready to accept such returns. I suspect it will be two months (maybe more) before the IRS is ready to accept such returns.
Let’s assume Jane and Susan efile their return today. Six weeks later their return is rejected, and they each get notices mailed to them. On the day Jane and Susan receive their notices the IRS announces they’ve reprogrammed their computers and same sex couples can now file jointly. Jane and Susan can’t just refile their return–they’re in the notice stage. They’ll each have to reply to the IRS. It would be a huge mess.
This is definitely a case where waiting for the IRS will make impacted couples lives far, far easier. As usual with the government, it’s hurry up and wait.