The Internal Revenue Service of the US Government would like a word with the great people of Pennsylvania. It is time to pay your taxes, file your forms, and wait patiently as millions of electronic bytes and bits zoom to IRS processing centers. They want to collect the money that the government needs to support the work that it does. Everything from building roads and bridges, to funding for school programs, to paying for our military is paid out of the coffers of the US Treasury. The PA Department of the Treasury and local tax administrators want their cuts too. All across the US, April 15 is known as the day we pay our fair share. Do we in the LGBT community receive back the same amount of funding for our tax payments that straight people do, and if not, what can we do to make changes in our tax code to provide fairness and equality?
Unlike states that provide marriage equality, Pennsylvania lacks marital equality for income tax purposes. I recommend consulting a tax preparer or a Certified Public Accountant before proceeding head long into taxes this year if you have married in another state such as New York, Maryland, or any of the other states that allow it. I also encourage you to document all your expenses, your shared property, and plan for this day. Perhaps this advice should have come earlier in the year, but then we are creatures who tend to put off until the last minute what we prefer not to do.
You can take other important steps this year too. First, you can write to your Pennsylvania legislators and demand that they pass HB and SB 300. Those bills will end discrimination for all public accommodations. They will put to rest any fear of discriminatory legislation being passed that would further harm the LGBT community. Second, you can write to your federal legislators, especially Senators Casey and Toomey. Demand that they pass ENDA and the Respect for Marriage Act.
Third, you can join organizations such as ME4PA, MEUSA, Equality PA, Keystone Progress, and other local organizations that are fighting to end discrimination and pass marriage equality. Offset your taxes by making contributions to these organizations. Your money will help finance the work that we do to spread this message. What can you do? Spread the word that we exist and attend our rallies and other events all across PA. Go to Pride Festivals and join in the fun. You don’t have to show your pride just at the bars and nightclubs…go to a gay-owned coffee house for an evening, or invite friends over to discuss what action you can take.
In any event, my taxes for 2013 are filed, and I can put this column to rest. Have you filed your taxes? What steps will you take to make your life better?