The Internal Revenue Service has announced a deadline to amend retirement plans for same-sex benefits to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, according to Lori Oliphant of Winstead Attorneys.
In the landmark decision [PDF], the court held that the term “spouse” includes same-sex individuals who have been validly married, even when living in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, explains Oliphant. Prior to this, terms of the Internal Revenue Code were not applicable to same-sex spouses, including with respect to qualified retirement plans.
The IRS has published Notice 2014-19 [PDF] to provide guidance on how the decision will be applied. They say that qualified retirement plans recognize same-sex marriage as of June 26, 2013, if the state recognizes the marriage. However, as of Sept. 16, 2013, all qualified retirement plans must recognize same-sex spouses, even if the state does not, says Oliphant. Sponsors have until the later of either the tax return filing deadline or Dec. 31, 2014, to amend plan documents, or if they’re governmental plans, until the close of the first regular legislative session.
In some cases, Oliphant says, amendments may not be necessary. For instance, if the plan refers generally to the term “spouse” as defined in the code, she says no amendment needs to be made.