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Okla. Tax Commission to Return Same-Sex Couple Payments

Monday Nov 11, 2013
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TULSA, Okla. - A small number of Oklahoma same-sex couples have received returned payments from the state Tax Commission, which turned down their recently amended filings that claimed married status.

The Tulsa World reports that the couples submitted the tax forms after the Internal Revenue Service in August announced its married filing status would apply equally to married same-sex couples, regardless of where they lived. It is accepting amended filings for the past few years.

So some gay couples who had wed outside of Oklahoma, where same-sex marriage is not allowed, filed jointly on the federal and state forms.

A state law requires Oklahoma residents to use the same filing status on state tax forms as they do on federal tax forms. But that contradicts the 2004 statewide vote that amended the Oklahoma Constitution to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages.

On Sept. 27, the Oklahoma Tax Commission announced it will require married gay couples to file state taxes as single people, forcing them to compute their federal taxes twice. It stated the 2004 constitutional language supersedes the state law mandating the same filing status.

Fewer than 10 couples who filed amended state forms during that nearly two-month period are having their payments returned. The exact number is not being released because that would de facto identify the filers, said commission spokeswoman Paula Ross.

"It is a very, very low number," Ross said. "The reason could be it is not tax season. Had it been during filing season, the number would probably have been higher."

Tulsa accountant Kelly Kirby received a rejection letter and is considering options, including getting information on time limitations for an appeals hearing.

"We are not sure which way we are going to go," Kirby told the newspaper.

Kirby has been married to Charles Johnston since 2008, when they wed in California. The couple have been together since 1999. The tax commission letter included their $289 payment they had remitted to the state.

"There is an emotional charge in all of this," Kirby said. "It is not just a professional issue, and it’s hard for me to separate the two."

Toby Jenkins, executive director for Oklahomans for Equality, said the advocacy organization is waiting on a ruling in a federal case filed in 2004.

Two lesbian couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, who are Tulsa World employees, and Sue Barton and Gay Phillips, filed the challenge to the Oklahoma constitutional amendment in federal court in Tulsa.

"We are waiting to see what will happen in that case," Jenkins said. "Our state in the last three months has aggressively been resisting recognition of all legally married same-sex couples."

Federal agencies have begun changing their policies to be in compliance with the June U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In addition to the IRS, the immigration service is recognizing same-sex marriages for sponsorship benefits, as is the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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