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Minn. Same-Sex Married Couples Ponder Tax-Filing Method

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The push to get same-sex marriage adopted in Minnesota was an emotional one, but now those couples are wrestling with the financial implications.

When couples first tied the knot in Minnesota last August, chances are pretty good that none of them were including their tax accountant on the guest list. Perhaps they should have. Now, as they approach tax season, how they choose to file will have major implications on their pocketbooks.

“Generally, a joint return is more advantageous than filing a separate return,” Certified Public Accountant Chris Wittich said.

Wittich is with the firm Boyum & Barenscheer in Bloomington, which will do hundreds of individual returns. A fair number will be for newly-married same-sex couples.

“What people don’t often understand is that married filing jointly sometimes saves taxes, sometimes it increases your tax liability,” Wittich said.

Every filer’s case is different, as Shannon Cotton and Vicki Schull are finding out.

“Do we owe or do we get a return?” Schull asked.

Cotton and Schull were legally married back in November 2013, in part to take advantage of the 2013 tax laws. Shannon has her own business, while Vicki teaches kinesiology part-time at the University of Minnesota.

“So they ran both scenarios and then let us know what’s best for us in our situation,” Cotton said.

To further complicate matters, Wittich says same-sex couples legally married elsewhere might benefit by filing amended tax returns for previous years.

“If you were married previously in a state that allowed it, now you can go back and amend the prior three years of returns to change the filing status from two single returns into one joint return,” Wittich said.

For Cotton and Schull, filing jointly will bring a late wedding gift, courtesy Uncle Sam.

“Yes, definitely pleased. Definitely,” Cotton said.

Wittich also recommends for newly married couples to review any estate plans. He says now is a good time to update trust agreements and wills and determine how property and other valuable assets are titled.

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