Must Same-Sex Married Couples in Iowa File Iowa Taxes as Married?

The question comes up periodically: are same-sex married couples required to file their Iowa taxes as married? The answer is yes.

The Iowa Department of Revenue hasn’t provided much guidance on what it expects out of same-sex married couples. But what little guidance it has issued is clear: couples in a same-sex marriage must file as married on their state taxes.

From a Department of Revenue memo, available on the Department website here, issued in 2009:

Beginning with tax year 2009, same-sex spouses should file their Iowa income tax returns as married persons, either jointly or separately. Federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, same-sex spouses must still file separately for federal purposes.

See also the form instructions for the Iowa 1040, which says same-sex married couples must use one of the “married” filing statuses on their Iowa tax return.

The process for preparing tax returns for same-sex married couples is:

  1. Prepare and file each spouse’s separate federal returns using a filing status of single or head of household, and applying federal tax law as it applies to unmarried people.
  2. Create but do not file a federal tax return with a filing status of married filing jointly* and applying tax law as it applies to married people. (*-Or married filing separately if you prefer. I almost always use married filing jointly on the returns I prepare in this step.)
  3. Use the return created in Step 2 to prepare the Iowa tax return. The Iowa return must show a filing status of “married.”


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