Same Sex Marriage: Initial Guidance for Benefit Plan Administration Following United States v. Windsor

Source: Sally Doubet King, Carolyn M. Trenda, and Larry R. Goldstein, Employee Benefit Plan Review, Vol. 68 no. 5, November 2013
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On Aug. 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released long-awaited guidance as to how the Internal Revenue Code should be interpreted in light of the June 26, 2013, decision of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, __ U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013). The Court in Windsor held that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of those protected by the Fifth Amendment. The guidance is Revenue Ruling 2013-17 and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions (the Guidance).

The focus of the Guidance is income taxes, but the general principles apply to benefit plans and there are some specific benefit provisions in the FAQs. Here is a summary of the Guidance as it relates to spousal benefits under various types of employee benefit plans. …