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Authored by Boyce Hinman, founder and director of the California Communities United Institute, and member of Marriage Equality USA. Hinman has been writing and posting a series, "Monday Morning Marriage Memo," as part of his Anatomy for Justice blog. This article was first published there, and is republished here with the author’s permission. Hinman resides in and serves California, therefore the posts sometimes have a California slant.
NOTE: Marriage Equality USA is not a legal firm or a tax/accounting firm. No action should be taken based solely on the content of our news blog or website.
If you are part of a same sex couple who married in California during the summer of 2008 you might qualify for a refund of part of the FICA taxes that you paid for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Your employer may also qualify for partial refunds of FICA taxes it paid during those same tax years.
To qualify for those refunds you would have to have been working for wages during those years.
The same is true of same sex couples who married legally in other states or other nations where such marriages are legal, such as Canada. And it would still be true for same sex couples who married in states or nations which allow such marriages but who now live in states which do not allow same sex marriages.
I am not an attorney or a qualified tax expert. No action should be taken based solely on the content of these memos. However, I hope the memos will help you ask the right questions of people who are qualified in these issues.
First let me explain what FICA taxes are.
FICA taxes are taxes that employees pay into the Social Security fund and the Medicare fund. The taxes in those fund accounts are used to provide you with Social Security and Medicare in your senior years. Employers also pay taxes into these funds.
In 2013, workers are paying Social Security Taxes equal to 6.2% of their total earnings. Each month that amount is withheld from the worker’s check and sent to the Social Security fund. The worker’s employer pays the same amount into that fund.
With regard to Social Security that 6.2% applies only to the first $113,700 in annual income. Any income over that amount is not taxed.
Also, in 2013, workers are paying Medicare taxes equal to 1.45% of their wages. Employers pay the same amount of Medicare taxes for each employee. This tax is charged against the total wages of each employee. There is no upper limit on the wages taxed for Medicare.
So, why might refunds be due? Before DOMA was overturned, if an employer offered health insurance to the same sex spouse of an employee, the IRS considered the value of that insurance to be taxable income paid to the employee. So, when computing the FICA taxes owed, the IRS said, for same sex married couples, the FICA taxes owed were a percentage of the wages paid plus the value of the insurance provided to the same sex spouse of the employee.
By contrast the IRS did not charge FICA taxes against the value of health insurance provided to the opposite sex spouses of employees.
Now that DOMA has been overturned FICA taxes are not charged against the value of health insurance provided to the same sex spouses of employees where the couple married in a state or nation that allows such marriages. In addition, both employers and employees may seek refunds of that part of the FICA taxes that were charged against the value of the same sex spouse’s health insurance in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.