June 20, 2019

Warren Leads 42 Senators in Reintroducing Refund Equality Act to Provide Equal Tax Treatment for Married Same-Sex Couples

Bill Would Permit Same-Sex Couples Previously Barred from Filing Taxes Jointly to Submit Amended Returns Dating Back to Year of Marriage; Bill will be marked up in House Ways and Means Committee today

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today reintroduced the Refund Equality Act. This legislation would ensure that legally-married same-sex couples -- who until the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly -- are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.

Before the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor, a same-sex couple, legally married under state law, could not file federal income taxes as a married couple. After Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published guidance that clarified the IRS's recognition of same-sex marriages, and stated that married same-sex couples could amend previously-filed tax returns to claim refunds or credits due as a result of corrected marital status.

Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating only back to three years, but the IRS lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor are unable to claim refunds for all years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $57 million in refunds to which they are entitled.

"The federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade," said Senator Warren. "We need to call out that discrimination and to make it right -- Congress should pass the Refund Equality Act immediately."

The legislation is cosponsored by 42 senators, including Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). 

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the companion legislation last week in the House of Representatives, alongside Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), John Larson (D-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) as original cosponsors. The House Ways & Means Committee is scheduled to mark up that legislation, which is part of the Promoting Respect for Individuals' Dignity and Equality (PRIDE) Act of 2019, at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 20.

Senator Warren and Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.), along with 71 of their congressional colleagues introduced the legislation in July 2017.