SEATTLE — Harley Broe has been an accountant for the past 40 years, and many of her clients are same-sex couples.
“They’ve been asking me this whole past year about what to expect for tax planning, estate planning, and I’ve had to say to them, I don’t know,” Broe said.
Now she has more answers for them. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act means big changes for gay couples who are married in Washington state.
“If I’m married to my spouse and my spouse dies, I can get survivor’s Social Security benefits, which has not been the case. If I die, my spouse can inherit my estate without paying a huge amount of estate tax,” Broe said.
She added that these couples should now be able to file a joint tax return, and won’t have to pay income tax for their spouse’s health care benefits.
For Nancy Woods and Jana Simpson, that is huge. Woods is taxed on $7,200 a year for her wife, Simpson, to be covered under her health insurance.
“With three small kids, that’s a lot of money. That’s another trip to Disneyland,” Woods said.
Simpson will now also have guaranteed rights to her wife’s retirement benefits through the Navy.
Ken Thompson and his partner, Otts Bolisay, have been together 11 years. Bolisay came to the United States 25 years ago from the Bahamas.
“At any moment, if he lost his current job, that would also end his visa and within 30 days he would have to leave the U.S. You make a permanent commitment to someone and you don’t know if you can really stay together here and it’s hard,” Thompson said.
They no longer have to worry about that and say they are looking forward to getting married for that very reason.
It’s a good idea for same-sex couples to contact their accountants and attorneys to make sure they complete any necessary paperwork, experts said. Also, employees can check in with human resource managers at work on changes to health insurance income tax.