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The Wagner Law Group

The Wagner Law Group, A Professional Corporation, is a nationally recognized ERISA & employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor & human resources practice. 


Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group has 25 attorneys engaged exclusively in employee benefits, estate planning and employment law. Six of our attorneys are AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell as having very high to preeminent legal abilities and ethical standards. The firm is among the largest ERISA boutiques in the country. Our practice is national in scope, with clients in more than 40 states and several foreign countries.





Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group


  Integrity | Excellence



Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110

Palm Beach Gardens 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418



Tel: (813) 603-2959

Fax: (813) 603-2961

101 East Kennedy Boulevard

Suite 2140
Tampa, FL  33602 


San Francisco

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

300 Montgomery Street

Suite 600

San Francisco, CA 94104


St. Louis

Tel: (314) 236-0065

Fax: (314) 236-5743
100 South 4th Street, Suite 550
St. Louis, MO  63102 







September 15, 2016


 Health and Welfare Law Alert




  IRS Issues Final Regulations Redefining Spouse for Federal Tax Purposes






The IRS has released final regulations that redefine the term "spouse" for federal tax purposes. The regulations, which implement the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, took effect on September 2, 2016. 


Background.  The Court's decision in Windsor invalidated the prohibition in the federal Defense of Marriage Act that had barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. However, in Windsor the Court did not clarify whether all states must permit same-sex marriages or if they only had to recognize those performed in other states.



In Obergefell, the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires every state to allow same-sex couples to marry.  Accordingly, Obergefell requires all states not only to permit same-sex marriages but also to recognize same-sex marriages validly entered into in other jurisdictions.



Obergefell established full equality between same-sex and opposite-sex spouses under both federal and state law.  Notably, Obergefell eliminated any differences between state and federal taxation of welfare benefits provided to same-sex spouses and same-sex spouses.  Before Obergefell, the value of the coverage or benefits provided to a same-sex spouse who was not recognized as a spouse by a state was generally treated as income to the employee for state tax purposes and taxed at single taxpayer rates.  After Obergefell, this coverage must be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex spousal coverage and the employee will usually be taxed at married taxpayer rates. 



IRS Regulations.  The following are highlights from the regulations:


  • The terms "spouse," "husband" and "wife" mean an individual lawfully married to another individual, and the term "husband and wife" mean two individuals lawfully married to one another.
  • Under federal tax laws, the terms "husband" and "wife" will be treated as gender-neutral.
  • The validity of a marriage is tested by looking at the state, possession, or territory of the United States where the marriage was entered into, regardless of the domicile of the individuals involved.
  • If a marriage is entered into in a foreign country, it will be recognized as a marriage for federal tax purposes if the marriage would be recognized as valid by at least one state, possession, or territory of the United States, regardless of domicile.
  • Individuals with a civil union, registered domestic partnership, or similar status other than marriage under state law will not be treated as being married.


The final regulations are available at:  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-09-02/pdf/2016-21096.pdf




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This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.