IRS issues proposed regulations defining terms related to marital status

The IRS has issued proposed regulations expanding terms related to marital status to take into account recent changes in the law with respect to same-sex couples in the Supreme Court rulings in Windsor v. U.S. and Obergefell v. Hodges. In light of these legal changes, the IRS has determined that marriages of couples of the same sex should be treated the same as marriages of couples of the opposite sex. Therefore, terms indicating sex, such as “husband,” “wife,” and “husband and wife” should be interpreted in a neutral way to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses….

The terms “spouse,” “husband” and “wife,” under the proposed regulations, mean an individual lawfully married to another individual, while the term “husband and wife” means two individuals lawfully married to each other. These definitions apply regardless of sex, the IRS noted. These terms, however, do not include individuals who have entered into a domestic partnership, civil union or similar relationship and such relationships are not treated as marriages for purposes of federal tax law.

The proposed regulations would obsolete Rev. Rul. 2013-17. However, taxpayers could continue to rely on guidance applying that ruling to employee benefit plans and the benefits provided under such plans. The proposed regulations would be applicable as of the date they are published as final in the Federal Register.

Comments requested. Written or electronic comments must be received by December 7, 2015. Submissions should be mailed to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-148998-13), Room 5205, Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044; or sent electronically via the federal eRulemaking portal at (IRS REG-148998-13).

SOURCE: 80 FR 64378, October 23, 2015.

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