Taxing Thoughts

Finnentrop On Tuesday, the office manager at my new job gave me a thick folder of forms to fill out.

License plate #? Crap, I can’t remember that. I had to get new plates when someone stole one of my plates, and I still haven’t learned the new number yet.

Code of ethics? Yes, I promise not to steal anything or sleep with my co-workers.

Drugfree workplace? Yeah, not really an issue for me.


Ugh. Ick. Ugh.

First, there is the ever present infuriating fact of having to declare myself “single.” I am decidedly not single. I am, in fact, married to Pili.  Married, that is, according to the lovely frizzy granola rabbi and sweet gay priest who, one year, four months, and three days ago, married us.  However, as we all know, in the eyes of my lovely government, I am SINGLE. ONE. UNPAIRED. My relationship, nine years of my life, irrelevant.

Amazing how a stupid form can depress you and ruin a perfectly lovely day.

Putting my irritation aside, I moved through the form automatically, until it hit me: By the end of the year, will I be considered a head-of-household? Will I actually have a dependent who doesn’t meow?

How will this work? Once GB is home, and we have jumped through the second-parent-adoption hoop, will we both be able to “claim” GB, tax-wise? Can we both declare ourselves heads-of-households with GB as a dependent? Somehow I doubt the IRS will let us get away with that. So, if we are both his legal parents and we cannot file jointly, who claims him?

Should that status be reserved for Pili, who is the real bringer home of bacon in our family (and not just because she is an omnivore and I am a vegefishitarian)?

I searched all the usual places, looking for advice – NCLR, HRC, Lambda Legal… and came up blank.

Help me out here folks: how does this work?

Note: We live in a state where second parent adoption should be relatively straightforward, so that will happen as soon as GB is home.


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  1. Here in Colorado where second parent adotion is not allowed, we had to petition the court to add my partner to both birth certificates. Our CPA did say that either of us could claim the girls. Because I have the flex spending account for daycare set-up through my work I have always claimed them. Once they are out of daycare (next year!!) then he says either of us could claim them.

  2. We switch off claiming our kids and Head of Household, depending on who it benefits more. Now that we have 2 kids, we each claim one as a dependent and I think technically each one of us could be listed as head of household (i.e. two single mothers living under the same roof), although we don’t do that. The thing that really gets me is the amount of taxes we have to pay if one of us puts the other on their insurance. I guess it’s better than not being insured, but I don’t think people realize how much it costs (it was an added 10K in taxable income when we did that).

  3. I think that this is what Trillian and I have done in the US in the past:

    The one of us who made the most (me the first year, since Trillian stayed home for half of the year, her after that) claimed Head of Household and Scooter. The other filed Single.

    An additional note–what you spend on the second-parent adoption will be tax-deductible (just as with the primary adoption). This is a wonderful loophole to take advantage of. Step-parent adoptions are not deductible, but since the US government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, they don’t count. Even if, as happened for us, the judge treated our second-parent adoption like a step-parent adoption.

    We’re now dealing with the Canadian side of things where we are legally married, but everyone has to file individually–but some stuff can be carried between returns. It’s more confusing than US tax forms, but at least I can legally check off “married.”

  4. It’s my understanding that you and Pili may choose which one of you claims your son as a dependant. To get the most bang for your buck so to speak, you should choose the one who earns the most money and thus is in the higher tax bracket. (Same goes for deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction. Whoever earns more, should generally take the whole deduction.)
    My partner stays at home with our daughter, and I am the sole wage earner in our family. So, I am able to claim both our daughter and my partner as dependents on my tax return, and take all of the deductions. (The tax laws allow me to claim my partner as a dependant, despite the fact that we are denied the right to marry, because we live together and I provide most of her support.)

  5. From my understanding, the one who does the adopting should claim the child first for the year the child is adopted. The one who does the second parent adoption should claim the child for the year in which the second parent adoption takes place. So for you guys, where it sounds like those two events will happen in the same year (universe willing) I have no idea who does it. You can not both claim the same child as a dependant. You probably need to see a lawyer or tax type person who knows what they are doing to find out the answers to these questions.

    We are kind of excited because since we have to pay out of pocket for IVF I think I can deduct ALL of it as medical expenses and get a big refund and since hopefully a second parent adoption should only take a few weeks in our state, E should be able to do that within this same year, claim an adoption tax credit and claim the child as a dependant. So next year we might actually get a reasonable refund.

  6. Questions such as these are what led us to get an accountant. But basically, whoever will benefit the most claims curious girl as a dependent, and in the years in which one of us was claiming an adoption tax credit, cg went on that return.

  7. I second Lucky’s opinion – it’s all about who makes more money and/or who has benefits you want to claim him for (like flex spending). A queer-friendly accountant is a MUST in my opinion, at least this year – DIY can lead to an audit if you’re not careful. Stupid IRS.

    Anyway, I feel your pain. Since we’re married within our state borders only, we have to file once for the state as married and again for the feds as single. It pisses me off every time.

  8. yes, but, what about parents who share custody? Divorced parents, I mean. Joint custody. Both of them paying half the daycare, half the support? Let’s say that they’re not really talking to one another, either, and they’re both bitter. Not about to let the other one get all the credit, and, really, why should just one get the credit for the whole year when they’re only paying half? Wouldn’t they each get to claim half the child?

    It makes sense for us just to have Kristin claim Julia — except with the daycare expenses. For that, because daycare is more expensive than the allowance for the flex spending account, we thought that Kristin could claim Julia for the 9 months that the account covers and I could claim Julia for the three months left over. But maybe that’s just opening us up to an audit…

    Perhaps we do need an accountant, too.

  9. Trista,

    I agree that anyone grappling with these issues should seek the advice of an accountant. Here is my non-accountant understanding:

    Only one person may claim a child as a dependant in any given tax year. It can’t be split up within one tax year. When parents are divorced, the IRS presumes that the parent with “primary custody” is entitled to claim the child as a dependant to the exclusion of the other parent. However, the IRS allows the parties to enter into a written agreement about who claims the child as a dependant. For example, the parents may agree to alternate years, with one claiming the child in odd years and the other claiming the child in even years. Such agreements are often incorporated into divorce decrees.

    I don’t think that the ability to claim deductions for things like child care expenses necessarily follows the dependancy designation. Rather, I think that whichever parent pays the expense can claim the deduction and that the deductions can be divided up between the parents in a given year.

    For couples that are together, it generally makes sense to have the higher wage earner claim head of household status, claim the child as a dependant, and take the child-related deductions. But again, a good accountant can help make the right choice for a given family.

  10. I think only one person can claim each dependent.

    And I think that in order to claim someone as a dependent you have to be providing for over 50% of the expenses required to take care of that person.

    But I, too, find the whole exercise depressing, and mostly try to avoid thinking about it.

  11. Whoever gets the most financial gain should claim the kid.
    AJ claimed Charlie last year, and will claim him again this year. Because even though my income is higher and I would benefit more from the extra dependent, I cannot take the earned income credit, and she can. So once you add EIC, she gets more money back by claiming him. I can, and do, claim HOH though. Never got called on that one, but thinking I might should stop doing it…
    Do four tax returns, and file the combination of the two that gets you the most money back.

  12. trista–

    Divorced straight parents typically include the intricacies of claiming dependents as part of the divorce and custody decree.

    my parents each claimed one of us (alternated years as to which one) and then switched back and forth with me when my older brother was no longer a dependent.

    I’ll claim Bigfella on my taxes, since Dyke Two gets the mortgage interest on her taxes. though, I have other issues on my taxes, like the fact that technically i don’t have a W-2 this year, as all of my income came from non-work sources…

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