Pennsylvania ends same-gender marriage ban – are you taxing benefits correctly?

On May 20, 2014, a US District Court judge overturned Pennsylvania’s 1996 ban on same-gender marriage ruling it unconstitutional. (Deb Whitewood, et al, vs. Michael Wolf, 1:13-cv-1861) Governor Tom Corbett chose not appeal the ruling making it the 18th state plus the District of Columbia that now allows the issuance of marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Pennsylvania has never recognized civil unions or registered domestic partnerships, and until now, was the only state in the northeast region that prohibited same-gender marriage.

The May 20th ruling ends a wave of legal challenges that began in September 2013. Guidance has not yet been issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue; however, it is assumed that fringe benefits provided to a same-gender spouse will receive the same state and local tax treatment that was extended to a lawful spouse under prior law.

State and local taxation of same-gender partner benefits isn’t as easy as it seems. That’s because a state’s civil laws governing marriage do not necessarily govern the income tax and unemployment insurance coverage rules. Take Missouri for instance. The state prohibits marriage between a couple of the same gender; however, a same-gender couple lawfully married in another state is treated as married for Missouri income and unemployment insurance tax purposes.

Speak to a trusted employment tax advisor about the payroll tax treatment of same-gender partner benefits.

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