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Monday, June 25, 2018

by Stephanie Akin, The Record

Tax time has been described as anxiety-inducing and unnecessarily confusing, and its inescapability has even been equated with death. Now, it’s a reason for celebration — at least for same-sex couples who for the first time can check off the box that says “married” on their 1040s.

Tim Eustace and his husband, Kevin, marked the occasion by going out to dinner in downtown Maywood, N.J., where they live. Jeff Farlow, 30, of Pine Hill posted his refund on Facebook. And Jeff Gardner, 45, of Hawthorne described a visit to the accountant with this incongruous adjective: “Momentous.”

Filing as a newly married couple entails its own set of headaches, and filing for the first time as a same-sex married couple comes with an assortment of questions. But many said the symbolic significance is worth the hassle — at least this time around.

“It’s another act that points out that the government legally recognizes us as a legitimate couple,” said Charles Cumpston, a retired publishing executive from Fort Lee. “That’s pretty incredible.”

For many, the status means a huge reduction in paperwork, lower bills for tax preparation and a bigger refund. But the transition hasn’t been completely without its glitches — this is a tax issue, after all.

Some have dealt with setbacks familiar to any married couple, including the realization that they fall in the group that pays the so-called marriage penalty. Married people often begin to pay more than they would if they were single as a couple’s joint income increases, regardless of whether they file jointly or as a married couple filing separately.

Some couples who fall in the opposite category, those who get a bigger refund filing jointly, are working to get reimbursed for past taxes they paid as single filers while they had civil unions or marriages recognized in other states.

And couples who were legally married in one state, but work in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage face another challenge: filing separate state tax returns as individuals there, a reminder, they said, of why a nationwide debate is still raging.