IRS: 'Husband And Wife' Now Means Any Married Couple

The term "husband and wife" refers to any married couple, straight or gay, for federal tax purposes, a new IRS rule states.

After two major Supreme Court cases, one of which, Obergefell v Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage across the country, the IRS felt the need to clarify what the term “husband and wife” means on federal tax forms, according to the official regulations shared on its website.

It was recommended that the IRS have a “same-sex marriage” option on tax forms but the agency felt that clarification was not needed.

“Treasury and the IRS believe that the definitions in the proposed regulations apply equally to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, and that no clarification is needed,” the regulation states. “Proposed §301.7701-18(a) states, without qualification, that, ‘[f]or federal tax purposes, the terms spouse, husband, and wife mean an individual lawfully married to another individual,’ and that the ‘term husband and wife means two individuals lawfully married to each other.’”

The agency finds the language to be gender neutral.

"Amending the regulations to specifically address a marriage of two individuals of the same sex would undermine the goal of these regulations to eliminate distinctions in federal tax law based on gender," the IRS said.

This decision by the IRS comes nearly one year after it announced the proposal that a marriage between two individuals, whether of the same sex or different sexes, should be recognized for federal tax purposes if it is recognized by any state, possession or territory of the United States.

“The proposed regulations confirm that terms in the federal tax code relating to marriage should be interpreted to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses, ensuring that all are treated equally under the law,” Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said at the time in a press release on the department's website. “These regulations provide additional clarity on how the federal government will treat same-sex couples for tax purposes in light of the Supreme Court’s historic decision on same-sex marriage.”

Same-sex couples are now required to file their federal taxes as either married filing jointly, or married filing separately, as are married couples made up of a man and a woman. Those in a domestic partnership or civil union will still file as single.

Sources: IRS, U.S. Department of the Treasury / Photo credit: Alicia J. Rose/Flickr

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