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Penalties and benefits for Same-sex couples now filing taxes as 'married' for first time ever
By: Genevieve Curtis
LAS CRUCES, N.M.--For the first time ever, legally married same-sex couples will be able to file federal tax returns together.
But many face big penalties.
"I think we are really excited that our relationship is being recognized not only on the federal level but the New Mexico state level," said Vicki Gaubeca.
The new federal tax code doesn't care who you're married to -- a marriage is a marriage.
"Of course that comes with the privileges of being married and the responsibilities like filing taxes," said Guabeca.
Gaubeca and her wife, Becky, have been married for more than four years, but this will be the first time they can file taxes together.
But CPA Jimmy Ebbs says being married isn't always a benefit.
"There's a real penalty for being married," said Ebbs.
Combined incomes can push couples into higher income tax brackets, forcing them to pay more.
"When they are married and they put the incomes together, they are going to start losing their deductions quicker," said Ebbs.
But Guabeca said it's all part of equality.
"I think really important is that recognition; we shouldn't be discriminated against as far as benefits or in the responsibilities that we should, we owe society," said Gaubeca.
If couples choose to do so, the IRS will also allow same-sex couples to re-file past returns for up to three years.
"I think we will probably have to talk to a tax accountant about that to make sure we are doing it right," said Guabeca.
Any couples married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can file their federal returns together no matter where they live.
"One of the big questions we are going to be asking ourselves is if we should file jointly or separately and what would be more of a benefit," said Guabeca.
Ebbs said typically it's more beneficial for couples to file jointly because the IRS imposes penalties for couples who file "married filing separately."
Ebbs suggests couples look at their W-4 forms to see if they'll have enough withholdings to match what they'll owe because of their new marital status.
"If they are married and they are both making good money, there won't be enough withholding if they put down married," said Ebbs
There are some perks for married couples, including greater charitable contribution deductions. And filing together can take less time and expense.
It can help couples protect assets they leave behind when they die.