Will Palmetto State make legally-married same-sex couples jump through tax hoops?

For Weekly SurgeJanuary 15, 2014 

I’m a native South Carolinian, so I feel entitled to say this. The Palmetto State can be a real bitch of a place to live if you happen to be a person who looks for progress. But I still live in hope that one day our state can be the first southern state to do something that will make it an innovator when it comes to empowering a group of its residents. Let’s say just for the sake of argument that said group of residents happen to be the LGBTQ community. Now, as long as we have Gov. Nikki Haley occupying space in Columbia, you can bet that change won’t be marriage equality.

So, what is the one thing the gay community does just like everyone else in the state? If you guessed shag, you’re wrong. The answer is: pay taxes.

In September, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS announced that same-sex couples who are legally married are allowed to file with a married deduction on their federal income tax returns. This was in reaction to the SCOTUS striking down Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in June. The ruling further specified that this applied to all couples whether they live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage or a state that does not, such as South Carolina. To provide you with an oversimplified tutorial in tax law, the common rule is that state law follows federal law. Of course, we all know that South Carolina has a very special way of dealing with a federal law if said law causes the state any inconvenience whatsoever.

Not to disappoint, there is a response from the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) currently pending approval which does not provide for equal treatment under the law. Once the shock has passed, please read on. SC Revenue Ruling #13 states: "Since South Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex couples that file as married for federal income tax purposes must file separately for South Carolina income tax purposes.” It is important to note that at this time, this is only a proposal and it is not final. This is your chance to get involved.

Why get involved? I’m glad you asked.

Here’s the scenario for the approximately 1,600 married same-sex households in the state if this discriminatory proposal is allowed to move forward. The couples can file their federal tax returns with no problem. But when it comes to their state returns they will still have to file as “Single” or “Head of Household.” This means they will be required to recalculate their personal incomes based on the state deductions and that means a higher amount of reported earnings to the state. Ryan Wilson, Executive Director of SC Equality notes: “This is where the extra time and costs for tax preparer will come in. SCDOR is telling gay couples they don’t care how much work or cost it takes; they cannot accept their married federal return, even to use it to calculate tax rates. They will continue to accept straight couples’ returns no matter what, though. There are now two separate systems for dealing with legally-married South Carolinians.”

Two separate systems for two separate groups of residents in a southern state? Let me think. Exactly how would that phrase look on a license plate? Forget “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” we could replace that with “Crossing Axes? Extra Taxes.” Sorry, “swords” didn’t rhyme but you get the idea. This is just an unacceptable reach of the already archaic definition of marriage our state has wedged into the Constitution. Furthermore, this not only discriminates against residents, it also makes the state just a bit richer in the process. Let that idea trickle down on you for a second. Now get angry.

If you are remotely connected to the LGBTQ community in our state, you need to involve yourself in this issue. There is time to register your comments with the SCDOR regarding the proposal by sending an e-mail to majorsg@sctax.org through Friday (Jan. 17). After that, public meetings are scheduled starting at 9 a.m. on Jan. 22 in conference room MPC02 of the SCDOR office building at 300-A Outlet Pointe Blvd. in Columbia.

SC Equality has a Web page set up that makes it even easier to get involved. Just go to http://scequality.org/home/ and follow the SCDOR story link. You can submit a comment directly through the link at the end of the story. This is your opportunity to be a part of an effort that can eradicate discrimination against the LGBTQ community in our state. Change is always rooted in an event that causes people to refuse to be marginalized. Get involved now.

OUT & ABOUT

Thursday, Jan. 16 – Pulse Ultra Club will host the 2014 Mr. Pulse Ultra Club Pageant. The entry fee is $100. Registration is at 9 p.m. and the pageant begins at 10 p.m. Pulse Ultra Club is located at 803 Main Street in Myrtle Beach. For more information, e-mail Breonna.Tenae@facebook.com or visit the Pulse Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.

Friday, Jan. 17 – Jessica Raye will host “Name that Tune” Friday Happy Hour, featuring music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s. Show time is 6:30 pm at Pulse Ultra Club. And not to be confused with the previous night’s Mr. Pulse Pageant, Pulse Ultra Club will host the 2014 Miss Pulse Ultra Club Pageant. Entry fee for this contest is also $100. Registration is at 9 p.m. and the pageant begins at 10 p.m. Pulse Ultra Club is located at 803 Main Street in Myrtle Beach. For more information, e-mail Breonna.Tenae@facebook.com or visit the Pulse Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.

Friday, Jan. 17 – Trident Knights Levi/Leather Social Club of Charleston will host its Social Night at Club Patrick’s, 1377 Ashley River Rd, Charleston. For additional details, see www.tridentknights.com.

Wednesday, Jan. 22 – Prime Timers of Myrtle Beach, the local chapter of Prime Timers Worldwide, will have its monthly Social Get Together at 6:30 p.m. at Damon’s Restaurant in Myrtle Beach. The address is 2985 South Ocean Blvd. For additional information about Prime Timers, visit www.primetimersww.com/primetimersmb/ or e-mail Roy Hardison at hardisonrl@yahoo.com.

Saturday, Feb. 8 – CLAWS, the Coastal Leather Allegiance to Wisdom & Service, will host its Happy Social Hour from 6-9 p.m. at Pulse Ultra Club located at 803 Main St. in Myrtle Beach. For more information on CLAWS, visit www.clawsllc.org.

Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.

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