On Monday I wrote about a real scenario I have encountered, regarding adoption credit carryforwards. I asked three questions in that post and only answered two of them. The third question was: if Angie (the fictional character I used in my example) amends her 2012 return, would she have to file that amended return as a married person and pay back the adoption credit she had claimed?

A broader way of asking the question is: if someone who’s in a same-sex marriage amends a prior-year return that they had previously filed as a single person due to the Defense of Marriage Act, must that amended return show a filing status of married?

The answer is: I’m not sure.

The IRS, in Revenue Ruling 2013-17, says the following regarding any return filed after September 16, 2013:

If an affected taxpayer files an original return, amended return, adjusted return, or claim for credit or refund in reliance on this revenue ruling, all items required to be reported on the return or claim that are affected by the marital status of the taxpayer must be adjusted to be consistent with the marital status reported on the return or claim.

At the end of April, I received an alert from PPC (who I use for most of my tax research):

For (original) returns filed before 9/16/13, legally married same-sex couples can file amended returns to change their filing status to married filing separate or married filing jointly. However, they are not required to change their filing status on a prior return, even if they amend that return for another reason. Either way, their amended return must be consistent with the filing status they have chosen. News Release IR-2014-56.

The source was a news release from the IRS. News Release IR-2014-56 is actually a news release that talked about how many tax returns had been filed through April 18th. The part about same-sex couples was tacked on to the news release, and says:

For returns originally filed before Sept. 16, 2013, legally married same sex couples have the option of filing amended returns to change their filing status to married filing separately or married filing jointly. But they are not required to change their filing status on a prior return, even if they amend that return for another reason. In either case, their amended return must be consistent with the filing status they have chosen.

I’ll admit to still being confused, but here’s what I think it means:

  • Using Angie from my previous post, if she amends her 2012 tax return for some reason other than changing the adoption credit, she could still use a “single” filing status and keep the adoption credit.
  • For same-sex couples in general, if they find something on a prior-year “single person” tax return that needs changed, they can amend and leave their filing status as single if they want.

What’s less clear is, what if the item being changed relates directly to being married? Examples:

  • If Angie amends to make a change to the adoption credit, would she need to file as married? I almost think she would, because it was a second-parent adoption. Therefore any future changes to the calculation of the credit would need to take marriage into account.
  • If a taxpayer amends because of something related to being married, such as having been taxed on their spouse’s health insurance premiums, would that amended return need to be filed as married? I think it would be.

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