On April 4, 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-19, which provides guidance on how qualified retirement plans should treat the marriages of same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. The Windsor decision invalidated Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred married same-sex couples from being treated as married under federal law.
- gives examples of Code requirements under which the marital status of the participants is relevant to the payment of benefits,
- provides guidance on how to satisfy those requirements in light of Windsor and Revenue Ruling 2013-17, and
- describes when retirement plans must be amended to comply with Windsor, Revenue Ruling 2013-17, and Notice 2014-19
Recognition of marriages of same-sex couples for tax purposes
Following the Windsor decision, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17, which holds that married same-sex couples are now treated as married for all federal tax purposes where marriage is a factor, if the couple is lawfully married under the laws of one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign jurisdiction. Notice 2014-19 gives additional guidance on how qualified retirement plans should treat the marriages of same-sex couples.
Plan amendments required with respect to plan provisions inconsistent with Windsor
- If its terms are inconsistent with Windsor or Revenue Ruling 2013-17, a retirement plan must be amended to comply with Windsor and Revenue Ruling 2013-17. For example, a plan must be amended if it defines “spouse” by reference to section 3 of DOMA, or only as a person of the opposite sex.
- Not all plans need to be amended in order to be in compliance. An amendment generally is not required if a plan’s terms are not inconsistent with Windsor or with Revenue Ruling 2013-17.
- Required amendments must be adopted by the later of December 31, 2014, or the applicable date under the IRS’ general amendment guidance for qualified retirement plans, Revenue Procedure 2007-44.
- Plan sponsors may also, but are not required to, reflect the outcome of Windsor for periods prior to the date Windsor was decided.
- In such a case, a plan amendment is required.
- Such optional amendment must be adopted by the later of December 31, 2014, or the applicable date under Revenue Procedure 2007-44.
FAQs for more information
See the FAQs on the treatment of same-sex marriages for additional guidance, including:
- beneficiary designations in profit-sharing plans after Windsor,
- amendments that reflect the outcome of Windsor for periods before the decision was issued, and
- application of the outcome of Windsor to 403(b) plans.
- IRS News – For Same-Sex Couples and Certain Domestic Partners
- Revenue Ruling 2013-17 – treatment of same-sex marriage for federal tax purposes
- FAQs on treatment of same-sex marriage for retirement plans