Frequently Asked Questions about Domestic Partners

There are several types of living arrangements for individuals of the opposite sex and the same sex that are not considered marriages under state law. Although these arrangements are known formally as “registered domestic partners”, they may also be called civil unions or domestic partners.

Following are frequently asked questions about income taxes that apply to domestic partners.

Are registered domestic partners permitted to file a federal income tax return using the married filing jointly or married filing separately designations?

No, registered domestic partners cannot use the married filing jointly or married filing separately designations. State law does not consider register domestic partners to be married. Therefore, these individuals are not married for federal income tax purposes.

Can a taxpayer use the head of household designation on their federal income tax return, if the taxpayer’s only dependent is his or her registered domestic partner?

No, a taxpayer cannot use the head of household designation on their tax return by using his or her registered domestic partner as a dependent. Although a taxpayer’s registered domestic partner can be the taxpayer’s dependent, registered domestic partners are not one of the individuals identified in Section 152(c) and (d) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Can a registered domestic partner claim a child as a dependent for federal income tax purposes?

Yes, a registered domestic partner can claim a child as a dependent, so long as the child is a qualifying child as defined in Section 152(c) of the Internal Revenue Code for both parents. Either parent can claim the child as a dependent, but both parents cannot.

Can a taxpayer itemize deductions on his or her federal income tax return if the taxpayer’s registered domestic partner claims the standard deduction?

Yes, a taxpayer can choose to itemize or claim the standard, regardless of whether the taxpayer’s registered domestic partner choose to itemize or claim the standard deduction. The law preventing spouses from mixing use of itemized and standard deductions do not apply to registered domestic partners, because they are not considered married.

If registered domestic partners adopt a child, who can claim the adoption credit for federal income tax purposes?

Either or both registered domestic partners can claim the adoption credit related to adoption expenses paid. However, the total adoption credit claimed by the domestic partners cannot exceed the actual adoption expenses paid or the limit on the adoption credit for that tax year. The domestic partners can allocate the adoption credit as they see fit, in the manner that provides the greatest benefit to them for tax purposes.

Is a registered domestic partner considered to be the stepparent of their partner’s child for federal income tax purposes?

If the registered domestic partner is considered the stepparent of their partner’s child under the laws of the state where they reside, they are likewise considered the stepparent for federal income tax purposes.

Do any provisions of federal income tax law designed to apply specifically to married taxpayers apply to registered domestic partners?

No, all sections of the Internal Revenue Code aimed to apply specifically to married taxpayers do not apply to registered domestic partners.

Where can I get additional help concerning taxes for domestic partners?

A tax attorney will be able to help with any other questions you have about your tax situation and help you file your tax return. Only a tax attorney has the training and experience to offer tax advice, while providing the protection offered by attorney-client privilege.

By calling the phone number at the top of this web site or by completing the form below, an attorney will get in touch with you for an initial consultation free of charge to give you the help you need.

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by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.