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Neither domestic partners nor same-sex spouses get to file a joint return for federal taxes. If you live in a community property state, however, your returns are definitely intertwined. Community-property laws treat couples' income as shared equally. According to IRS regulations, therefore, each partner must report and pay tax on half of the community income.
In community property states, half the income one spouse earns during the marriage legally belongs to the other spouse. If a married couple files separate tax returns, they divide up community income and each report half of it on his or her return. Up until 2010, even though the same laws applied to domestic partners, the IRS treated their income as separate. Now, just like other couples, they report the income as if they each earned 50 percent of it.
What You Do
If, say, you make $50,000 a year and your stay-at-home partner doesn't have an income, your taxable income is $25,000 a year in the eyes of the IRS. If you make $40,000 and your partner makes $30,000, the IRS considers you each made $35,000. When you have separate income -- rental payments from a house you owned before the marriage, for instance -- you claim 100 percent of it on your own return, adding it to your half of the community income.
You report your half of community income -- plus any separate money you can claim -- on your 1040. In addition, you and your partner must both attach an allocation worksheet from IRS Publication 555 to your 1040s. The worksheet shows how you divided the income and deductions. If one of you has self-employment income to report on Schedule C, both of you file a Schedule C and report half the income.
As you each get half the income, each of you is responsible for half the tax, including self-employment tax. Even if you don't have any income of your own, the IRS will hold you responsible if your tax bill isn't paid.