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Time running out for same-sex couples to get tax refund

When Patricia Bedford went to retrieve her mail last weekend, she was surprised to find a small envelope from the state Department of Administrative Services. In it was an amended W-2 form. There was no explanation or instructions, she said. She wasn’t sure what to do.

Little did Bedford know she was eligible for a sizable tax refund, but the clock was ticking – and not just for her.

Bedford, who is gay and is legally married, suspected the change had something to do with the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Internal Revenue Service had announced in August that, in the wake of the decision, married same-sex couples living in states that recognize their marriages “will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.”

The IRS said such couples could amend their taxes as far back as 2010 if they were legally married during that and subsequent years. Bedford had been a state employee at that time, and her contract allowed her to add her spouse to her health insurance plan. But because the marriage was not recognized nationally, she had to list the “estimated cost” of the coverage as taxable income on her W-2.

Bedford, of Bow, contacted her accountant, and they determined that amending her 2010 taxes alone would reap a nearly $900 refund. There was a catch, however: They had just a few days to meet Tuesday’s looming tax deadline.

In the days since, Bedford said, the two have been “scrambling” to make the changes and – as required – get the physical documents in the mail. They finished in time, she said yesterday, but no thanks to New Hampshire.

“The state knew about this last August,” she said. “That they waited until the last minute to send out the 2010 amended W-2 is appalling.”

“My primary concern,” she added, “is for the lesbian and gay state employees and ex-state employees who have no idea that they need to file their 2010 tax amendments by this Tuesday.”

Linda Hodgdon, commissioner of the Administrative Services Department, said the state acted as promptly as possible and was under no obligation to send updated W-2’s in the first place. She said those affected – several dozen state employees, by her estimate – can amend their taxes without the newer forms.

“This was not something we had to do,” Hodgdon said.

It’s unclear whether or how many nonstate employees are eligible for a similar refund. Hodgdon said anyone with a similar contract would be.

Tuesday’s deadline – when the amendments must be postmarked – only applies to 2010, since the IRS allows changes up to three years after the original returns are filed.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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