It’s not unheard of for the government to send mixed messages at any level, but this is a new one: although Missouri’s state constitution bans marriage equality, Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, announced on November 14 that the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere—but only for tax purposes.
The executive order means that the Missouri Department of Revenue will accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples who legally married in other states, though not quite the same as opposite-sex couples; the decision does not change who qualifies for state-level tax exemptions, credits, or deductions.
Nixon said in a press release on his website, “Missouri is one of a number of states whose tax code is directly tied to that of the federal government and under Missouri law, legally married couples who file joint federal tax returns with the IRS must also file joint state returns with our state Department of Revenue.
“As a result, accepting the jointly-filed state tax returns of all legally-married couples who file federal returns is the only appropriate course of action, given Missouri statutes and the ruling by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.”
In August 2013, the Internal Revenue Service and the US Department of the Treasury ruled that same-sex couples’ legal marriage status would count at the federal level for tax purposes, regardless of the law in their state of residence.
The decision meant that same-sex couples could potentially file their federal taxes together for the first time, when previously those in states with marriage equality could file their state taxes jointly, but not their federal taxes.
For many couples, the situation has reversed—they can file jointly at the federal level, but if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage, they are required to file separately at the state level. Governor Nixon’s executive order makes Missouri the first exception to the rule.