Levin introduces tax code rewrite for same sex marriage

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The top ranking Democrat on the tax writing committee is introducing legislation Thursday to ensure tax laws are rewritten to provide for equal treatment for same-sex married couples.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, is introducing the "Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act" in the wake of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last month legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states.

“As the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of marriage equality, my bill would effectuate this equality to all married couples under our country’s tax code, providing them with the fairness, dignity and basic rights we all deserve,” Levin said in a statement.

Much of Levin's 23-page bill simply changes parts of the tax code by striking husband or wife and adding "married individual who files."

In states where same sex marriage had not previously been legal, couples can't file joint state taxes and face significant tax burdens that heterosexual couples don't suffer.

But it's not clear how big an impact the bill would have. In August 2013, the Internal Revenue Service said it would treat same-sex marriages like other marriages for federal tax purposes — even if they lived in a state that didn't recognize the marriage.

Under the IRS ruling, same-sex couples were treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes.

"The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit," the IRS said.

Last week, Levin co-sponsored legislation that would update all other parts of U.S. laws to reflect marriage equality and ensure equal treatment for all married couples under law.

In the U.S. Senate, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced identical legislation joined by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.

Levin's bill is co-sponsored by the House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C. More than 15 Democrats in the House, including Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, have co-sponsored bill.