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IRS Provides Guidance to Employers Regarding Same-Sex Spouse Rules for Retirement Plans

April 10, 2014
Harter Secrest & Emery LLP

HSE LEGALcurrents

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in United States v. Windsor. The Court ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined “marriage” as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” for purposes of all federal laws, was unconstitutional. On August 29, 2013, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17, which states that for purposes of Internal Revenue Code rules, any same-sex marriage that was legal in the state where the couple got married will be recognized. Conversely, Revenue Ruling 2013-17 holds that civil unions, registered domestic partnerships, and other relationships granted formal status under state law, but not denominated by the state as “marriage” will not give rise to spousal rights under the Internal Revenue Code. On April 4, 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-19 and a list of frequently asked questions, clarifying the impact of Windsor for administrative steps taken prior to the overturning of Section 3 of DOMA, and providing employers with instructions on how and when to update their plan documents.

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