Jerame Davis

Who wants to file taxes anyway?

Filed By Jerame Davis | February 12, 2008 6:01 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, domestic partnership, marriage, taxes, technology

Taxes. Who doesn't hate them? Even as an unabashed Liberal (note the capital L) I hate taxes. Unlike Republicans, I understand they are a necessary evil that keeps our democracy running and capable of dealing with everything life throws at a civil society. Knowing this doesn't make it any easier to see the withholding numbers on the check stub or to cut that check on April 15th.

Yesterday I was reading an article comparing major tax preparation packages TurboTax and TaxCut. These are the "boxed" software suites that you buy in the store, not the online services where you fill out your taxes on a website. The article itself is rather dry and almost pointless, but this section caused me to raise an eyebrow:

But from my vantage point, many taxpayers would be wise to seek out a well-trained pro. That list begins with registered domestic partners, who now must file as married couples on their state returns even though Uncle Sam doesn't recognize such unions.

The article is written for a California audience, but it is definitely something to think about as DPs and/or civil unions are pushed as alternatives to marriage. Can you imagine what a nightmare it must be for California domestic partners to file taxes every year?

To make matters worse, there is no software package available that handles your situation so your options become extremely limited. Either you dust off your adding machine and put pencil to paper or you hire someone to do it for you so you don't screw it up.

Even though California's DP laws are open to same-sex and opposite sex couples, I'm pretty sure the majority of folks registering are same-sex couples. So here we are again with an undue burden put upon gay and lesbian families. Even when the system tries, it fucks it up, but that's exactly why separate but equal will never be truly equal.

What's sad is that in California, home of Silicon Valley and some of the greatest technology companies in the world, you can't use modern technology to file your taxes if you are registered domestic partners. Tax prep software has to be updated every year to keep up with the every changing tax code. Do these software companies just not care about the growing number of tax payers they simply cannot market to?

I'm curious and I'm too lazy to look it up - is this a problem anywhere else? There are other DP and CU laws in the country. Is California the only state that requires couples to file as married for their state taxes while the Feds require filing separately?

This is why we cannot accept anything less than full marriage equality. It is such a clear case of why these attempts at separate but equal laws like domestic partnerships or civil unions will never work in the end. California has had to amend their DP law something like 11 times, many of which were simply to clarify when and where DPs were "equal to marriage."

How can we feel like we're being treated equally if we have to clarify every point where equal means equal?

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Turbo Tax does allow same-sex couples to indicate themselves as such, but requires us to be "Registered Domestic Partners" even when civil unions or (MA) marriages may apply. Turbo Tax does helpfully recommend that same-sex couples use the desktop version, which lets you more easily share yours and your partner's information between state and federal forms, and where you don't have to pay separately for multiple returns.

I have further details over at Mombian, where I also take exception to Turbo Tax's very hetero iconography.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 12, 2008 10:50 PM

Jerame, I'll bet you'd hate taxes a lot less if most of the money were going toward infrastructure, education, healthcare, alleviating poverty, and similar aims, rather than to the military industrial complex?

I know I would. When I was in Ireland, I minded a lot less paying the high taxes. Even though I knew the corrupt government was wasting money and probably somehow pocketing for themselves an unfair share, it was still comforting to know that the money wasn't going toward war.

Dana is right in that TurboTax DOES support Registered Domestic Partners filing a California income tax return. While civil unions may apply, we strictly follow the law as provided by CA (RDP). And to echo what Dana stated, if you are filing as a Domestic Partner, use the CD version of TurboTax.

As for Dana's opinion of our iconography, we simply try to find icons that paint a picture without having to use words. It's hard to please everyone, but we try.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Wouldn't this all be easier for everyone if, say, a marriage in Mass was just recognized nation-wide like everyone else's marriage?


Thanks for pointing out TurboTax's stance, Bob. I appreciate it. (And look into those icons, Dana is right. They're rather hetero!)


Thank you for stopping by to comment on the story. I was going by the story in Mercury News. I suppose the original story doesn't explicitly state this situation isn't handled by the software, but it is implied.

I'm impressed Intuit is on top of its game by finding this story and responding so quickly. Thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding.