Just six months after the Illinois Department of Revenue ( IDR ) announced that it would not allow civil union couples to file taxes jointly, the agency has reversed the decision and updated their system to include same-sex civil union partners.
The directive came directly from Gov. Pat Quinn, said Sue Hofer, a spokesperson for the IDR.
"The governor said that being in a civil union in Illinois is the equivalent of being married in Illinois, and married people file jointly," Hofer said.
Civil union partners will now be allowed to file jointly on their state returns. However, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, they will still be required to file separately at the federal level. That requirement meant some fancy footwork for officials trying to make it possible for same-sex couples to file jointly, Hofer said.
Because Illinois tax law requires spouses who file taxes separately at the federal level to also file separately with the state, civil union couples who want to file jointly in Illinois will have to fill out their federal tax forms twice. The first form, which will be used for federal tax purposes, will list a spouse as an individual. The second will be used as a kind of mock form, where both partners are listed. The two forms allow spouses to legally file jointly, Hofer said.
"There is a limited amount we can do with the federal law," Hofer said. "I don't think this is the last of this."
LGBT activists have hailed the news a leap forward in same-sex partner recognition.
Bernard Cherkasov, Equality Illinois CEO, commended Gov. Quinn and IDR Director Brian Hamer. "We are grateful to them and their respective staffs for their commitment to equal treatment for same-sex couples," he said in a Nov. 29 statement.
Several groups, including Equality Illinois, consulted with IDR on the policy changes, said Hofer.
According to Equality Illinois, Illinois is the tenth state, along with Washington D.C. to allow same-sex partners to file taxes jointly.
Joint filings will allow civil union couples to claim the same deductions and take advantages of any tax benefits granted to married partners. But the win might be more symbolic that pragmatic for most.
"This is a question of fairness and equity more than it is a question of dollars and cents," said Hofer.
Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, might agree. Martinez said that the news raises questions about strategy for LGBT activists.
"Although this is a positive step forward for couples in a civil union, I am concerned this will hinder our movement towards equal relationship recognition for same-gender couples in Illinois," he said. "I had hoped that we could work on a parallel path, working to repeal DOMA and working to pass an equal marriage law in Illinois, but I am concerned that this step will further diminish our arguments for marriage at the state level."