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 said from July 1 same-sex couples 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.

Melbourne-based Commercial Rd Accounting tax agent Matt Anderson told Southern Star 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,” Anderson 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, Anderson 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 Southern Star it is 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.

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