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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 22
McDermott introduces Tax Parity Bill for DP benefits
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McDermott introduces Tax Parity Bill for DP benefits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) introduced legislation on June 2 to establish equal treatment under the tax code for employees who cover their domestic partners under their employer-provided health care plans.

The bill also offers some tax benefits for employers who offer health care coverage to employees' domestic partners.

'As things stand,' McDermott explained in a statement, 'companies are forced to pay higher federal taxes when they extend health care benefits to domestic partners - that's wrong and it must be corrected.

'My legislation would be especially important to Seattle, where a number of American companies are located - like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and others - who offer these health benefits to their employees.'

'Seattle is also home to a large LGBT population,' McDermott continued, 'many of whom are impacted by this inequity and would benefit from changing the law, as my bill would do.'

Health care benefits for same-sex domestic partners are currently considered extra income, and are therefore taxable, while the same benefits for opposite-sex married spouses are not subject to income taxes.

Speaking to SGN by phone during a break in committee hearings on June 2, McDermott said he is optimistic that the bill 'can get through this session.'

'We do have & Republican [support] on this bill,' McDermott said. 'Companies in their district are asking for this. Sometimes they think 'Well, that's for someone else's constituency,' but this will help companies right in their districts.'

While tax benefits for businesses that offer health coverage to domestic partners will appeal to Republicans, eliminating the tax liability on domestic partner health care will benefit same-sex couples, as federal tax laws do not recognize state-issued same-sex marriages and tax regardless of marital status.

'It's just fairness,' McDermott told SGN. 'If I can get my wife covered - if I work for Starbucks, for example - but an employee with a domestic partner has to pay $1,000 more - we have to address that.

'It's about security for people,' McDermott added. 'Healthcare, knowing that you can get that - in this economy it's very, very important. Democracy is about trying to deal with inequities when you find them.'

McDermott also stressed that the measure will benefit businesses by making it more attractive for them to offer domestic partner benefits to LGBT employees.

'Companies want the best employees,' he said. 'They don't have to penalize someone who has a domestic partner. [The Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Bill] makes it easier for them to get and keep good people.'

A companion bill is due to be introduced in the Senate. McDermott predicted that 'ultimately it will be part of a much larger bill. I can't say for sure yet, but that's what my long legislative experience tells me.'

McDermott explained that the complex negotiations on taxes and the federal debt will produce some all-inclusive compromise bill that, he believes, will include his proposal.

'I'm in a hearing now,' he said. 'We're having a hearing in Ways and Means on a tax bill. So the Republicans have legislation to cut corporate taxes 25%. OK. If they want that, then part of the deal can be this bill.'

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