Gay and lesbian couples are being reminded they will be treated the same as straight de facto couples for tax purposes for the 2009-2010 financial year.

Assistant Treasurer Senator Nick Sherry reminded same-sex couples that from July 1 they would have the opportunity to include their partner’s income when lodging their tax returns, which is “fairer”.

“While the amount of tax that people have to pay depends on their personal circumstances, including whether they have children, it’s a big win that same-sex couples can, when doing their taxes this year, access a range of tax concessions previously not available to them,” Sherry said.

One tax agent told Sydney Star Observer changes and benefits were dependent upon individual circumstances.

“I think in most cases, with your average couples without children, it will have very little affect whatsoever,” the agent said.

“There can be some advantages and disadvantages depending on income, especially if you might have a disparity between incomes.”

Gay and lesbian couples with children, for example, may not be eligible for the same amount of Family Tax Benefit with a combined income, however are now eligible for medical expenses and dependent spousal tax offsets previously unavailable.

Same-sex couples without children may fair better, now eligible to pay a lower Medicare levy surcharge if their combined income is less than $146,000.

While the move equalises gay couples in areas of tax law, the agent said some clients were not interested in the altered scheme.

“One couple did say, we don’t have marriage rights, so as far as we’re concerned we’re not interested in it at all,” he said.

An Australian Tax Office spokesman told Sydney Star Observer it was up to individuals to provide the correct information on their tax returns.

“The onus is up to the individual to complete their tax return accurately, where they don’t, depending on the circumstances, penalties could apply,” he said.

The changes are a result of 2008 legislative reforms which now recognise same-sex couples in 85 areas of federal law.

info: For more detail on income tax changes for same-sex couples, visit www.ato.gov.au.

QUICK QUESTIONS:

When were the changes implemented?

The changes to recognise same-sex relationships took effect for superannuation purposes on 1 July 2008 and for income tax purposes from 1 July 2009.

Why does the ATO need to ask my gender?
∙ establish proof of your identity
∙ consent to repay your spouse’s Family Assistance Office (FAO) debt
∙ transfer any unused portion of the senior Australian tax offset (SATO) to your spouse
∙ transfer any unused portion of the pensioner tax offset (PTO) to your spouse.
Currently the age pension age is different for males and females and one of the conditions of entitlement to receive a transfer of any unused portion of SATO or PTO is to be the age pension age for your gender.

How should I complete my tax return if I am still married but now in a genuine same-sex de facto relationship?
Generally, you should complete your income tax return based on your domestic situation on 30 June of the relevant financial year.

What happens if our same-sex relationship ends?
From 1 July 2009, a person who was in a same-sex relationship may be recognised as a ‘former spouse’ under a ‘family law obligation’. This means that you may be eligible for:
∙ capital gain tax (CGT) rollover relief if the family home was transferred to you as part of a relationship breakdown settlement, and
∙ a share of the first home saver account contributions made by you while you were living together in a genuine domestic relationship as a couple.

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