We’re in a same-sex civil union. Should we calculate our subsidy as a household of two, or apply separately?

Q. My partner and I are in a same-sex civil union. For subsidy calculation, does the exchange count our income together as a household of two, or do we each apply separately based on individual income?

A: Since you’re not legally married, your premium tax credits will be calculated separately, based on each partner’s individual income. For tax purposes, the federal government does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships as marriage.

But for legally married same-sex couples, subsidy calculations are made the same way they are for legally married opposite-sex couples.

Following the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, CMS released a bulletin explaining that to the IRS, marriage is marriage: whether the partners are same-sex or opposite-sex, legally married couples are treated the same for tax purposes – including ACA premium tax credits.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide.  Some states still permit domestic partnerships and civil unions as well, although it’s unclear if they will continue to do so long term.  For premium tax credit calculations, the Court’s 2015 ruling doesn’t change anything – the previous guidance issued by CMS is still effective: same-sex marriage is the same as opposite-sex marriage for all tax purposes, including premium tax credits.  What the Court’s 2015 ruling does is expand the number of states where marriage is available for same-sex couples.

As long married same-sex couples file a joint tax return and do not have affordable minimum essential coverage available from an employer, they are eligible for premium tax credits if their joint income is under 400 percent of poverty level and the plans available to them have pre-subsidy premiums higher than the limits set by the ACA.

Married opposite-sex couples who file separately are not eligible for premium tax credits, and the same is true for same-sex couples who are legally married but file separate tax returns.

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