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September Legislative Update

Recognition of Same-sex Marriages for Federal Tax Purposes
As a follow-up to the overruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released IR-2013-72, which announced the U.S. Department of Treasury and IRS will recognize same-sex marriages and treat the couples as married for federal tax purposes. Revenue Ruling 2013-17 applies regardless of whether the couple lives where same-sex marriages may or may not be recognized.
Key Points of the Ruling
Tax Treatment of Same-sex Spouses
  • For federal tax purposes, same-sex spouses are treated as married.
  • Applies to income, gift, and estate taxes.
  • Also applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor:
    • Employee benefits
    • Filing status
    • Personal and dependency exemptions
    • Taking standard deduction
    • IRA contributions
    • Claiming earned income tax credit or child tax credit
Legal Marriage
  • Same-sex couples must be legally married in:
    • One of the 50 states
    • District of Columbia
    • U.S. territory
    • Foreign country
  • Ruling does not apply to couples in these relationships:
    • Registered domestic partnership
    • Civil unions
    • Similar formal relationships recognized under state law
2013 Federal Income Tax ReturnsLegally married same-sex couples generally must file jointly or married but filing separately.
Tax Years Open Under Statute of Limitations
  • Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may - but are not required to - file original or amended returns if they want to be treated as married for tax purposes for one or more prior tax years that are still open under the statute of limitations.
  • Statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is generally (whichever is later):
    • Three years from the date the return was filed; or
    • Two years from the date the tax was paid.
  • Refund claims may still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012.
  • Some individuals may have special circumstances (i.e., signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open), which may permit taxpayers to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
Health InsuranceIf employees purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from employers on an after-tax basis, those employees may treat the amount paid for coverage as pre-tax and exclude that cost from their income.
Upcoming Guidance
According to the Treasury and IRS, additional guidance will be forthcoming. Employers can expect guidance for filing refund claims for payroll taxes on previously taxed health insurance and fringe benefits provided to same-sex spouses. In addition, further guidance for cafeteria plans will be issued as well as how employers should treat qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored arrangements for same-sex spouses for periods prior to Revenue Ruling 2013-17. Other federal agencies may release similar guidance affected by the Internal Revenue Code.
Beginning September 16, 2013, the Treasury and IRS will apply the terms of Revenue Ruling 2013-17. Taxpayers wanting to rely on the Ruling's terms may proceed, as long as the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not ended. Amended refund claim forms and filing instructionsare available on the IRS website as well as helpful FAQs. Sept
SOURCE: CONEXIS

Get Ready for Enrollment in Health Exchanges

    By 
  • KRISTEN GERENCHER
In about six weeks, Americans will have a new kind of open enrollment to consider.
Starting Oct. 1, people without health insurance can sign up for standardized coverage through new health-insurance marketplaces run either by their state, the federal government or a combination of the two—the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
image

WSJ peers into the future with this first-person look at how the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as 'Obamacare,' will impact individuals. Visit wsj.com/prescribed for the interactive version of this video.
The coverage will take effect Jan. 1. And people with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level—about $23,500 to $94,000 for a family of four—can receive financial help on a sliding scale to offset the costs.
These marketplaces, also known as exchanges, will make shopping for health insurance easier than it is today, says Sarah Dash, a research fellow at Georgetown University who has studied the new marketplaces. "Consumers are going to get a much more transparent, apples-to-apples shopping experience."
If you have affordable insurance through an employer, or if you have coverage through a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid, you won't be affected by the exchanges.
Exchange shoppers will fill out a single insurance application, which will be used to "find out if they can get a tax credit on their premium, help with cost-sharing or if they're eligible for Medicaid in their state," Ms. Dash says.
You can calculate your potential premium assistance with an online tool from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts health-care research.
This first open-enrollment period will last six months, from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. It generally takes two weeks for a policy to go into effect after enrolling, so you'll need to sign up by Dec. 15 to get coverage starting Jan. 1.
You can sign up by using the Internet, phone, mail or in person at a designated center. The centers will have people trained to help with the enrollment process, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Insurance agents and brokers may be there as well. In many states, people who enroll online can tap into a live chat window for customer-service troubleshooting.
Many state call centers already are running. Visit Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 for more information.
The law states that people looking for insurance can't be denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing health conditions. However, premiums can vary based on four characteristics: age, tobacco use, geographic area and family size—though there are limits. Older people may be charged up to three times as much as younger people and smokers may be charged up to 50% more than nonsmokers.
The law also requires that health-insurance plans cover a set of 10 essential benefits such as hospitalization, doctors' visits, prescription drugs, maternity care, pediatric care, and substance-abuse and mental-health care.
Before diving into the enrollment process, be sure to have the Social Security numbers of the people you're looking to insure; employment and income information, such as pay stubs, tax return or W-2 form; and policy numbers if you currently have any health insurance. Eligibility for tax credits and subsidies is based on modified adjusted gross income.
Five different plan levels will be available on the new marketplaces. Four of the levels have metal names: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
The bronze plan generally offers the lowest premium in exchange for the highest out-of-pocket costs. The silver level is the level you must choose if you want to get financial help with out-of-pocket costs such as copayments and deductibles. "I call the silver level a mid-range plan," says Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a public-policy research organization in Washington. Under the gold and platinum levels, premiums will be higher, but your share of costs when you get health care will be lower.
The fifth level, a catastrophic plan, is available for people younger than 30 and those suffering financial hardship.

Think about how much coverage you can afford and how much care you anticipate needing, says Carter Price, a mathematician with Rand, a nonprofit research group in Arlington, Va. "People will need to decide what level of coverage they want to take, whether it's very bare-bones or very generous."