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Gay Marriage Tax Rule Will Make Life Difficult for Accountants

Last week, the Utah Tax Commission announced that legally married gay couples who live in Utah will still have to file their state taxes separately, even though they can file joint returns on their federal taxes. 

Utah law bans same-sex marriage as well as marriage-like privileges for same-sex couples. Thus, gay couples in the state sometimes opt to seal the deal in places where it is legal, like California, Washington or Massachusetts. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government must recognize legal same-sex marriages for tax purposes, but the high court’s decision did not require states like Utah to do the same.

“I don’t know how many filings we do of those in the state of Utah at this point in time,” says Susan Speirs, CEO of Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants. “I haven’t heard any rumblings among members but it’s certainly going to be detrimental to their practices as far as work load.”

Utah CPA’s will now have to prepare two additional state returns for individuals in addition to a joint federal tax return. 

A spokesperson for Utah’s State Tax Commission says it would be a crime to violate state tax law, but Commission chair Bruce Johnson told the Salt Lake Tribune last week the state does not have a mechanism to enforce that policy.

Speirs says if a couple were to try and file joint tax returns, they’d likely be hard-pressed to find a CPA willing to file the paperwork.

“Yeah they may not ever get caught but we consider our profession, were highly valued from an integrity and ethical standpoint so we probably would not do that for our clients,” Speirs says. “We would not do it.”

According to a census by the Williams Institute at UCLA, there were a total of 3,909 same –sex couples living in Utah in 2010. 809 of those couples identified as being married. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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