Same-sex married couples face many challenges, not the least of which involves finances. Massachusetts allows gay marriage but the federal government does not, so the income tax advantages available to heterosexual married couples are not available. Weston-based biotechnology company Biogen Idec has decided to enact its own tax justice by “grossing up” married gay couples’ paychecks to cover the costs of benefits for spouses and children, which hetero couples can deduct on their income taxes and gay couples cannot.
About 40 Biogen Idec employees are expected to get the gross-ups, which are worth $2,000 to $5,000 each, starting in January. A spokesman says they can’t let “exceptional talent” slip away because the federal tax laws don’t recognize their situation. The initiative is not limited to Massachusetts. Biogen Idec employees in other states like North Carolina, where gay marriage isn’t legal, will be eligible. All the employee need do is produce proof of marriage, civil union or a domestic partnership to receive the additional payments.
These same-sex tax equalization benefits, as they are known, are only available at 38 U.S. employers, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization. Biogen Idec joins Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, Bingham McCutchen LLP, Deloitte LLP and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, which already provide these extra benefits.
While these gross-ups are good news for same-sex couples who are still together, it makes life easier on those providing medical benefits for children after a marriage breaks up. One Biogen executive estimates he’s paid “tens of thousands of dollars” for what he calls “this unfair tax.” While the rest of the business world waits for the Supreme Court to decide if the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution, a handful of forward-looking companies have decided it’s worth a few dollars to help some special families.
Source: Boston Globe, “Biogen Idec to offset tax for gay staff,” Katie Johnson, Dec. 26, 2012