Filing Blind: Gay couples do taxes together for the first time

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – As gay rights enters the focal point of Indiana politics this week, the state is accepting jointly filed tax returns from married gay couples for the first time. Though gay couples still fight for equal rights, there has been no visible attempt by the state to make filing their taxes more difficult than any other couple.

Fearful of bureaucratic backlash from last year’s marriage decision, Katie and Samantha Mitchell were hesitant about the tax filing process this year. They share a home and take care of two dogs and three kids, but a tax return prompted a challenge they hadn’t faced before.

“Yeah, it was different,” Katie said. “I kind of didn’t know where to go. I turned to [Samantha] for some guidance.”

Samantha, who admitted she wasn’t the one likely to do the filing for the couple, said she wasn’t sure how to proceed either.

“I think for us it was kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got to do that now,'” Samantha said. “For me it was a little bit scary because not knowing whether or not there would be hiccups along the way.”

Starting in February, they researched their filing options. Each had filed separately for years and had hoped filing together wouldn’t be nearly as difficult as getting married. They wed in a rush in June, as hundreds of couples had across the state, hoping to pre-empt a court stay putting the unions on hold.

Now, they view doing their taxes as one additional layer to their relationship. They hoped they wouldn’t run into any problems, but last year’s marriage fight was fresh in their mind.

“Even though it’s accepted by law in the state, there will be people who make it difficult along the way just because they don’t believe in it or don’t agree with it,” Samantha said.

The Mitchells were then relieved to find that when they filed in February, there were no hiccups or glitches. The state treated them just like any other couple, according to WISH-TV sister station WLFI News.

According to Joe Henchman, who keeps track of state tax policy for the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, states that newly enacted gay marriage laws are largely not seeing trouble accommodating joint returns from gay couples.

“I do want to commend the Indiana Department of Revenue and tax officials there,” said Henchman. “I don’t often commend tax officials for their good work, but it’s been very smooth in Indiana. It’s been very smooth in a lot of states, and I think that’s a testament to their profession.”

In Indiana, the state return is based off of information placed on a federal form – which is gender-neutral.

“There is no place on our Taxwise software that asks for gender,” said Patti O’Callaghan, who helps dozens of people file every year through Lafayette Urban Ministry’s tax preparation service. “It just says taxpayer and spouse.”

Samantha and Katie used their own software to file and were happy to see no additional barriers stood in their way. They said they hope this is a step in the right direction not only for their family, but the state and the nation.

“It makes us feel safer as a couple and as a family that society is sort of accepting us and allowing us to do things that other married couples do on a normal basis,” said Samantha.