GLAA endorses Domestic Partnerships Joint Filing Act
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GLAA endorses Domestic Partnerships Joint Filing Act

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

Testimony on Bill 16-0958,
The Domestic Partnerships Joint Filing Act of 2006

Before the Committee on Taxation and Revenue

November 2, 2006

Good morning, Chairman Evans, Councilmembers and fellow citizens.

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am representing the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the country.

We are in favor of this legislation and we thank you, Chairman Jack Evans, for introducing it and your continued leadership in expanding D.C.’s domestic partnership laws.

Filing taxes jointly is a significant recognition of partners by the government. While actual taxes for couples may go either up or down depending on their circumstances, the symbolic value far outweighs any cost to the couples or the District.

The legislation is needed because of the Federal Government’s refusal to recognize same-sex partners or other non-married couples and D.C.’s tax filing status must be the same as the federal status.

We understand that the Office of Taxation and Revenue will be objecting to the legislation because it brings us out of conformity with the federal taxes and forms, but that is precisely the point of the bill. Until the federal government repeals the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which is unlikely even with a Democratic majority, joint filing of federal taxes would not be possible for same-sex couples or domestic partners. Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriages, but even they cannot file federal taxes jointly.

Massachusetts, along with Vermont, Connecticut, and California have passed similar legislation to the bill before us. New Jersey should be doing so within the next six months. All use the same process of creating a worksheet that is essentially what the federal forms would be if joint filing were permitted. The worksheet is then used as the basis for the state forms.

Non-conformity with the Federal government is a small inconvenience compared to recognition of the dignity and worth of domestic partners (both same-sex and opposite-sex) in the District.

The bill should be expanded to address specific sections of the District tax code where joint filing is specified. The most clear example of this need is in § 47-1801.04 (26), the definition of “standard deduction.”

47-1801.04 (26) "Standard deduction" means:
(A) $2,500 in the case of a return filed by a single individual, by a head of household, by a surviving spouse or jointly by husband and wife;
(B) $1,250 in the case of a married person filing separately; …

In this case, domestic partners filing jointly do not fall into either definition. While it may be logical to use definition A, it wouldn’t technically be correct. Amending the section to include domestic partners will avoid confusion.

The areas in Title 47 that we have identified to be amended to include domestic partners are:

47-1806.03 (c)
47-1806.03 (d)
47-1806.03 (e)
47-1806.06 (b)(5)
47-1806.06 (j)(2)
47-4440 (d)

In the interest of time, I won’t discuss each one, but the goal is to treat domestic partners who file taxes jointly in the same manner as married couples filing jointly.

We also suggest a related amendment to Title 47. Recent legislation that you authored allows domestic partners to be exempted from paying D.C. taxes on their employer contributed health care premiums for domestic partners. Employer contributions for an individual’s owner health care premiums, or that of other family members, were already exempt from both federal and local taxes.

However, because of the federal government’s non-recognition of domestic partners, premiums paid by the employee for his or her domestic partner’s healthcare insurance must be after-tax payroll deductions. Individuals or other family members would have pre-tax deductions for their health care premiums.

To alleviate this tax disparity and remove a disincentive for people to add their domestic partner to their employer’s health insurance plans we propose a new paragraph 47-1803.03(b-2):

(b-2) An individual may deduct from gross income the amount the individual pays annually in premiums for health care insurance for a domestic partner, as defined in § 32-701(3), and for the dependents of a domestic partner.

We don’t anticipate that the number of domestic partners will dramatically increase as a result of this legislation. Nor do we expect a large percentage of domestic partners to take advantage of this exemption. For many couples, both partners already have employer paid health care plans, which will still be less expensive because of federal taxes. However, for those who would benefit, the savings will be significant, and the cost to the District government will be negligible, and may result in a net savings in health care costs.

Thank you, I am available to answer any questions that you may have.