Is the Refuse to Lie Campaign a Good Idea for Same-Sex Couples?

Is it a lie for a same-sex married couple to file federal taxes as single or head of household instead of married? The group “Refuse to Lie” says it is. From their website:

Each year the federal government demands that thousands of gay married couples lie.

Across the country, legally married gay couples are taking a stand. We are refusing to lie about the fact that we are married.

I agree with the sentiment of the website, but I disagree with the idea that same-sex married couples are “lying” by filing as single or head of household instead of married. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is quite clear that the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. So for federal tax purposes, it’s not a “lie” to file as unmarried.

Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it a lie? No.

The word “discriminate” is more accurate than “lie.” Though I suppose the “Refuse to be Discriminated Against” movement isn’t as catchy as “Refuse to Lie.”

Not So Simple

I don’t recommend that same-sex couples try filing as married. If — IF — you would get a large benefit from filing as married, then you might want to look at filing your returns as single or head of household and then filing an amended return as married. In any case, a same-sex married couple filing as married must file certain disclosures with the IRS.  And it’s unknown exactly how the IRS will respond. Be prepared for a fight. It’s not something to take lightly.

Protest Congress, Not the IRS

I have seen people suggest flooding the IRS with “protest” returns to prove a point about the discrimination DOMA causes. While I am no defender of the IRS, I don’t encourage people to do this. The IRS is oftentimes the bad guy — but not this time.

The IRS is not the problem. The Defense of Marriage Act is the problem. Only Congress (or the courts) can change DOMA. If you want to protest, I think it’s best to direct your protest toward your elected officials in Congress rather than the IRS.

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