By Jamie Rubenstein
It may be the Halloween season, but there’s nothing scary about the situation in New Jersey for same-sex couples ready to take advantage of tax, estate, and social security benefits following the state Supreme Court lifting of the marriage ban.
“Just like other states that have come before New Jersey, we have the same drill for same-sex couples since the law now provides simple clarity on choice,” declared Nannette Lee Miller, national leader of the LGBT Practice for Marcum, the New York-based accounting and financial advisory firm, in an interview with 429Magazine.
The choice, she explained, comes in making the tax compliance job easier by allowing couples to decide the advantages of filing jointly or singly, depending on the financial status of the couple. In some instances, she said, couples might find they pay more in taxes by filing jointly—and so it’s necessary to run through the projections with an advisor.
“Those same-sex couples in New Jersey who choose to get married now may not necessarily find they will be paying lower taxes,” she said. “Couples need to understand the tax and legal consequences of their options.”
For one thing, Miller stressed that, “same-sex civil unions in New Jersey will not automatically convert to married status, and while same-sex New Jersey couples who previously married in New York will now be recognized in New Jersey for state tax purposes, their estate planning documents may not take this into account.”
The best part of the New Jersey change, she said, is that “now that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut all allow same-sex marriage, it makes things so much easier for couples who work in one state but live in another to take advantage of the tax, social security and estate benefits.”
Still, Miller said, “trust and estate documents must be updated to consider the tax consequences.”
The same goes for asset transference, child custody issues, power of attorney and other factors that will become effective under the same-sex marriage statute.
On trusts and estates, a key consideration now is the application of the marriage deduction penalty, which now becomes available for same-sex couples.
“Just as we would advise heterosexual couples, in some cases it might be wise to wait until after January 1 to get married when there would be tax advantages for next year,” said Miller.
It all depends on the financial status of the couple, but again, it’s best to consult an advisor before taking the plunge.
Nonetheless, Miller, who handles Marcum’s San Francisco practice, joins other LGBT accountants and advisors from across the US in seeing the New Jersey decision generating new momentum to break same-sex barriers. There are now 14 states that have lifted bans and legalized marriage equality.
“There’s a definite shift, and it’s an economic disparity that the general public now sees that same-sex couples are being discriminated against,” said Miller, noting that it now goes beyond just “moral considerations.”