Proposed Bill Could Provide Same-Sex Couples $67M in Tax Refunds

A bill proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Richard Neal, both Democrats of Massachusetts, could grant same-sex couples across the U.S. an estimated $67 million in tax refunds.

The Refund Equality Act of 2017, which was introduced on Thursday, would ensure legally married same-sex couples — who until the Supreme Court’s 2013 United States v. Windsor case were barred from filing federal taxes jointly — are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.

Image: Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asks a question during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Oct. 6, 2015 file photo. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

“For nearly a decade, legally married same-sex couples had to file their taxes as single persons, often paying more taxes than they would owe if they could file as married,” Warren said in a statement emailed to NBC News.“This bill is a simple fix to allow same-sex couples to claim the tax refunds they earned but were denied because of who they love.”

Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are only permitted to file amended joint returns dating back three years. This restriction does not allow gay couples who were married in jurisdictions that recognized same-sex marriage prior to the Windsor case to claim refunds for the entirety of their marriage. The Refund Equality Act would create an exemption to this three-year limit.

“All legally married couples in this country deserve to be treated equally,” said Neal in a statement. “This bill would codify into law an important correction that would enable same-sex married couples to go back and claim the tax refunds and credits for which they qualify. The Supreme Court has ruled as such, and now it’s time for Congress to act and make sure all Americans are treated with the fairness and equality they deserve under the law.”

If the bill is passed, same-sex couples who were wed in jurisdictions that permitted same-sex marriage more than three years before the United States v. Windsor struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. — would be eligible for a refund.

The measure is co-sponsored by 32 senators and 39 members of the House of Representatives in addition to Warren and Neal. All the sponsors are Democrats.

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