MONEY Taxes

TurboTax Offers $25 Rebate to Angry Customers

Turbotax
Paul Sakuma—AP

The company apologizes after alienating customers with a price increase on its tax-prep software. But is it enough?

In response to accusations of a “sneaky” price hike, TurboTax is offering rebates to customers who feel they were misled by the company’s recent pricing changes to its desktop tax preparation software.

The consumer outrage stemmed from a change to the TurboTax Deluxe edition, which now requires users to upgrade to the more expensive TurboTax Premier or TurboTax Home & Business to prepare certain forms, including Schedules C and D, that had been available in previous versions of the software. The response was swift and furious, with customers posting more than 1,500 one-star reviews on Amazon, and competitor H&R Block offering tax preparation software for free to consumers who felt duped.

On Friday, in an open letter to customers, Intuit TurboTax general manager Sasan Goodarzi acknowledged that the company “messed up” by not doing enough to communicate the pricing change to customers:

“I deeply regret the anger and distress we have caused those of you affected by this change. Our customers are the heartbeat of every TurboTax employee. Our hope is that we can regain your trust and demonstrate that our commitment to you has never been stronger.”

After filing their 2014 returns, customers who used the software to electronically file their 2013 taxes but had to upgrade to do so this year can go online to request a $25 rebate. But as Edgar Dworsky of ConsumerWorld.org points out, the rebate is less than the $30 charge to upgrade to Premier and the $40 charge to upgrade to Home & Business.

“Intuit should be offering free automatic upgrades this year and not requiring users to remember to send in for a rebate possibly months from now after they file their taxes,” Dworsky said of the apology.

For customers looking to avoid paying for tax preparation software, TaxAct offers free access to all federal tax forms, though fees do apply if you want to import information from previous years.

MONEY credit cards

5 Ways Your Credit Card Can Be Stolen Right Under Your Nose

woman using ATM machine at night
Maciej Toporowicz—Getty Images/Flickr

Card thieves have many techniques for stealing your data without you noticing.

There are several things people freak out about when their wallets or purses have been stolen: knowing a thief has your ID (and your home address), losing irreplaceable gift cards or cash, and having to cancel your credit cards. That’s usually the first thing people do — call their banks — but it’s easy to act quickly when you realize you’ve been robbed. Sometimes, it’s not that simple.

Thieves steal credit and debit cards all the time without taking the physical card. The most common kind of card theft results from data breaches. Last year, millions of U.S. consumers had their cards replaced after their information was compromised in one of the massive cyberattacks on retailers, even if their cards didn’t show unauthorized activity. People have gotten used to the idea that data breaches are inevitable, but there are lots of daily activities that put your cards at risk for theft, without you noticing.

1. Drive-Thru

A Pennsylvania woman was recently arrested for allegedly swiping customer cards on a personal card reader while she worked the drive-thru at a Dunkin’ Donuts, WFMZ reports, reportedly using the information to create duplicate cards and charge more than $800 to the accounts.

That’s not the first time a story like this has popped up, and it’s likely to happen again, because the situation presents an easy theft opportunity to drive-thru workers: Customers hand over their cards and usually can’t see what the cashier is doing with it on the other side of the window. It’s not like you should avoid the drive-thru for fear of card theft, but it’s one of many reasons to regularly check your card activity for signs of unauthorized use.

2. Restaurants

How often do you see your server process your dinner payment? Usually, he or she takes your card away from your table and completes the transaction out of your sight. Many restaurant workers have taken advantage of this situation to copy customers’ cards and fraudulently use the information.

3. On the Phone

People are pretty trusting when making orders over the phone, assuming that whoever takes the order is entering the credit or debit card number, expiration date and security code into a payment system, not just copying it down for their own use. On the flip side, it might not be the person on the other end of the call you should worry about — plenty of people read their card information aloud within earshot of strangers, making it easy for someone nearby to write down the numbers.

4. RFID Scanners

Most radio-frequency identification (RFID)-enabled credit and debit cards have a symbol (four curved lines representing a signal emission) indicating the card has the technology for contactless payment. If you have one of these cards, you have the ability to use tap-and-pay terminals found at some retailers, because your card sends payment information via radio frequencies, received by the terminal.

That same technology also allows thieves to use RFID scanners to copy your card data if they get close enough to it and your card isn’t protected. If you’re not sure your card has RFID technology, call your issuer, and if it does, use signal-blocking materials and products to protect it.

5. Card Skimmers

Thieves have been installing copying devices at gas pumps and ATMs for years: They tamper with card readers to install skimmers that copy your card data when you swipe it, so a thief takes your credit or debit card information while you complete an otherwise routine transaction. Experts advise you look closely at card readers for signs of tampering, use ATMs serviced by your bank and check your card activity regularly for signs of fraud.

That’s really the best way to combat credit card theft: Watch closely for it. With online banking and mobile applications, it’s easy to check your accounts every day, making it more likely you’ll spot something out of the ordinary than if you only looked at card activity once a week or so. You can also check your credit score for sudden changes, which can be a sign of fraud or identity theft. You can get two of your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.

MONEY #financialfail

“I Made $6 Million at Age 26—and Lost It by 28″

Dave Asprey
Dave Asprey

Dave Asprey, bestselling author of The Bulletproof Diet, confesses his greatest #financialfail: Not walking away from a losing investment

Not only is Dave Asprey the author of the recent New York Times bestselling book The Bulletproof Diet, he’s also a Silicon Valley investor and tech entrepreneur. His biggest financial fail, he admits, was being too greedy in his 20s and failing to get professional help with investment decisions. “I made $6 million when I was 26,” he says, “And I lost it when I was 28.”

Here’s how it happened, as told to me on my new podcast, So Money:

My career accelerated quite a lot at that time. I was the youngest guy at Exodus Communications, a $36 billion company.

I was in charge of due diligence for our mergers and acquisitions department. So, when we wanted to buy a company, I was the guy who’d go in and say, ‘Is this technology going to work for us? Yes or no?’

I attended board meetings. And because of that, I knew all of the upcoming acquisitions. So, I was blacked out [of trading stock he had received as part of his compensation]; it was illegal.

When those stocks started to teeter, what I should have done was quit my job, sell all of my shares and retire. Instead, I said, ‘I can’t do that. I might lose an additional $4 million in uninvested equity or something.’

So I stayed at the company. And the stock dropped from $60 a share to $5 a share.

In retrospect, I should have thought, ‘I have enough money. I can do whatever I want. I should just walk away today.’ I could have done that. But for six months, I didn’t walk away.

Every day, I was worth less and less in the bank account. And that was a grinding down, horrible feeling.

And there’s another thing. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this: I was with some online broker—going back 15 years. It was a very cutting edge broker that let me do options and all this stuff.

Based on the reports it seemed like I had a couple hundred thousand grand in the account, at least enough to take care of my basic expenses. But there was a margin on that account that I didn’t even know about because I wasn’t managing the stuff tightly. I was too stubborn and fearful to hire someone to help me manage it. The margin ended up consuming most of the account before I even noticed.

Today, the advice translates to: Hire a professional to pay attention to the stuff that you’re not paying attention to.”

Every day, MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi interviews entrepreneurs, authors and financial luminaries about their money philosophies, successes, failures and habits for her podcast, So Money—which is a “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes.

More by Farnoosh Torabi:

MONEY Debit Card

What Happens If I Swipe My Debit Card as “Credit”?

person swiping credit card
David Woolley—Getty Images

The answer may surprise you.

It’s a question we’ve all heard when shopping: “Credit or debit?” It seems straightforward, just the cashier asking you what type of payment card you’re using, but there’s actually a lot more history to that question than you might think.

Debit and credit transactions are processed differently: Here’s how MasterCard explained it in an emailed statement to Credit.com: When you use a debit card and your PIN (personal identification number), the transaction is completed in real time, also known as an online transaction — you authorize the purchase with your PIN and the money is immediately transferred from your bank account to the merchant. With a credit card, or using a debit card as credit, it’s an offline transaction.

“The funds for offline transactions are deducted after the merchant settles the purchase with the credit card processor and typically take 2-3 days to be reflected in your account balance,” MasterCard says.

Issuers used to charge merchants different fees for accepting credit cards than for accepting debit card transactions with a PIN. Before the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed, Sen. Dick Durbin added a provision, now called the Durbin Amendment, that restricted interchange fees to 12¢ per transaction. By the time the bill was signed into law, the cap was set at 21¢, much lower than the previous average of 45¢ per transaction. (On Jan. 20, the Supreme Court declined to hear retailers’ challenge to that 21¢ cap.)

With the cap on interchange fees, banks saw their revenue source for things like debit card rewards and free banking dry up, which is why you’re unlikely to find those things these days.

“There’s several thousand community banks and credit unions, what the act refers to as unregulated, who can actually charge greater interchange on transactions,” said Nick Barnes senior vice president of retail banking at ACI Worldwide, a payments system company. The Durbin Amendment only impacted financial service providers with $10 billion or more in assets. “That’s why you go to these tiny banks you’ll still see free banking and debit rewards.”

Should You Choose Debit or Credit?

Credit cards and debit cards are very different products, each with their own advantages and drawbacks that should influence when and how you use them. As for hitting the “credit” button when you’re using a debit card: It doesn’t really matter.

Other than the changes banks may have made as a result changing interchange fees, choosing to use a debit card as credit doesn’t really impact you. You often have the choice to use your debit card with or without the PIN, and how you use it is a matter of personal preference. Running a debit card as an offline transaction still ends up doing the same thing — taking money from your checking account — and it doesn’t help you build credit, like using a credit card does.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Read next: Why You Need to Get a Credit Card

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MONEY 529 plans

Why Obama Wants to Tax College Savings

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2015.
Mandel Ngan—Reuters

In this week's State of the Union address, the president proposed ending a popular tax break on 529 plans. Here's what's behind that pitch.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama promised to make college more affordable for low- and middle-income families. But one way he would pay for that would be to make college more expensive for millions of upper-income Americans.

The president proposed ending a key tax break on state 529 college savings plans. Today, the money you invest in a 529 plan isn’t deductible on your federal taxes (34 states and the District of Columbia give you a break on state taxes), but your savings grow tax-deferred, and you won’t owe any taxes on your earnings when you withdraw that money to pay for higher education expenses, including tuition, room and board, and books. Under Obama’s plan, those investment profits would be taxable, even if the money went toward college.

President Obama says he’d use the estimated $2 billion in additional tax revenues to raise the American Opportunity tax credit, which is a $2,500 write-off targeted at low- and middle-income families paying tuition bills. The administration points out that 529 plans disproportionately benefit higher-income households.

In essence, Obama is proposing making college more expensive for an estimated 2 million mostly upper-income families to ease the tuition burden for more than 8.5 million low- and middle-income families.

A Question of Fairness

This proposal—which is already facing Republican opposition in Congress—is based on concerns about the fairness of the 529 tax breaks that have been widely discussed among education-related think tanks and experts of all political leanings for years.

In all, federal taxpayers spend more on educational tax breaks than they do on popular financial aid programs such as Pell grants, noted a 2013 report by the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) Consortium for Higher Education Tax Reform. Not only are all the education tax breaks confusing and hard to collect, “students from families with the least financial need receive the most tax-based aid,” the report noted.

In theory, 529 plans aren’t just for the rich. Anybody can open one of these tax-protected colleges savings account for a child or for themselves. You can choose either a prepaid tuition plan, which lets you buy tuition credits ahead of time, or a college savings plan, which lets you set money aside for a future college student.

That tax break that the president wants to eliminate has been a key to 529 plans’ popularity. Since President George W. Bush signed the 529 tax exemption into law in 2001, families have opened nearly 12 million new 529 accounts and have socked away almost $250 billion for college.

And states have been marketing the savings programs. In 2012, the GAO found that 14 states offered matching grants to encourage low-income families to save. Some states even offered 529 brochures to new parents leaving the hospital.

Despite these efforts, very few low- or middle-income families have managed to save very much in 529s. In 2012, more than 97% of families had no special college savings account, according to a Government Accountability Office report. (The large number of accounts may be due to some families opening separate accounts for each child and parent.)

One reason for the low participation: Many still don’t know about 529s. Of parents who say they’re planning to send their kids to college, 49% don’t even know what a 529 plan is, Sallie Mae found in its annual “How America Pays For College” report.

Another factor: Low and middle-income families pay comparatively low taxes, so the tax break is not much of a lure to lock up money for one purpose. Families can take money out of 529s to spend on non-college expenses, but they’ll have to pay regular income taxes, plus an extra 10% penalty, on any earnings.

As a result, 529 investors tend to be wealthy. Families with 529s earned a median annual income of $142,400 and reported a median of $413,500 in financial assets, according to the GAO. About half of families with 529s (or similar Coverdell accounts) had an income above $150,000 in 2010.

And, in part because high earners typically owe higher taxes, the wealthy reaped large tax breaks from using 529s. In 2012, the GAO found that Americans who made less than $100,000 withdrew a median $7,491 from their 529s, saving just $561 on their taxes. But Americans who earned more than $150,000 withdrew a median $18,039, saving $3,132 in taxes.

In place of the tax break at withdrawal, Obama wants to expand the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is currently phased out for families earning more than $180,000 a year.

The administration would like to expand the write-off to more students, such as those who attend college part-time. “It’s targeted in such a way that it will be most impactful to the students who need the assistance the most,” says Cecilia Muñoz, White House domestic policy director.

What Changes You’ll Really See

What does this all mean for you: Not much, at least for the near term.

If you’ve already got money in a 529, don’t worry. The president’s plan wouldn’t be retroactive. It would repeal the tax break on earnings only for future contributions.

And if you’re planning to start saving for college, there’s probably not much to worry about either. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have come out in opposition to the proposal. “You don’t produce a healthy economy and an educated workforce by raising taxes on college savings,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told the Wall Street Journal.

That means there probably won’t be extra money in the budget for much additional financial aid for low- and middle-income families. So you may as well start saving for tuition bills. Here’s how to find the best 529 plan for you.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the proportion of new tax revenues that would come from families earning above $250,000 if Obama’s proposal was enacted. The reference has been removed.

 

MONEY Love and Money

1 in 5 Spouses Commits This Financial Infidelity

money hidden in drawer
Dave Nagel—Getty Images

Hiding something major is rare, but there's a decent change your partner could be keeping financial secrets

Ever question whether your significant other isn’t being entirely forthright with his or her finances? Maybe you should: A new survey from CreditCards.com shows that 6% of Americans keep a bank account or credit card secret from their spouse or partner.

The study, which polled 843 American adults who said they were currently living with a spouse or partner, also found that one in five respondents spent $500 or more on a purchase without their partner knowing.

That number is heavily skewed toward men, with 26% of males reporting a hidden major purchase compared with only 14% of females. But it’s not necessarily because men are more dishonest. A previous study showed they’re simply more likely to make large impulse purchases than women, meaning guys may just be a little freer with funds. At least no one can accuse them of being hypocrites: A surprisingly high number of men—31%—are okay with their partners dropping more than half a grand without notice. Only 18% of women said the same.

When MONEY surveyed more than 1,000 married adults about financial infidelity, we came up with similar results. According to our exclusive Love & Money poll, 22% of husbands and wives have made purchases they didn’t want their partner to know about; 35% of those who hid purchases kept quiet to avoid a lecture.

And what are these secret purchases that have created so much strife? Probably what you expected: For men, it’s mostly hobbies and electronics. For women, it’s clothing, shoes, and gifts for family and friends.

Getting on the same page

So what’s a couple to do? Start by being more transparent about money. In most cases, financial infidelity is caused by nothing more insidious than a failure to communicate. “Any time you’re talking about money in a relationship, it’s all about communication,” says Matt Schulz, a senior analyst at CreditCards.com. He recommends sharing passwords so each partner can view the other’s accounts and have a clear sense of what’s going on financially. Services like Mint.com also allow couples to track each other’s finances without the need to share actual banking credentials.

Manisha Thakor, co-author of Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money With Your Honey, has another tip for how to increase transparency: Set up your online bank accounts so each person gets alerted when there’s a withdrawal or deposit over a certain amount. Or you can follow the advice of MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi and set up three separate accounts: his, hers, and ours. “This means you don’t have to tiptoe around each other just to buy something you really want for yourself,” Torabi says. “With your own personal account it’s expected you can splurge on yourself without fear of getting caught.”

No matter what you do, just make sure both parties stay informed about the household’s finances. “If you’re trying to do a budget and living paycheck to paycheck, you need to know what’s going out as well as what’s going in,” Schulz says. “If you can’t do that, all sort of problems come.”

For more on how couples can be richer together, check out all of our Love & Money coverage:
He Says, She Says: When Couples Are out of Sync About Money
When She Makes More: Advice on Playing Fair About Money
Money Match: See How Well Couples Really Know Each Other
QUIZ: Which TV Couple Are You Most Like?

MONEY Taxes

Now You Can Pick Up Your Tax Refund at Walmart

Walmart exterior
Cash for tax refunds is the latest financial service from the big box retailer. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

But should you take the retailer up on its new service?

This tax season, some shoppers could be walking out of Walmart with thousands in cash. On Tuesday, the company announced a new service that will let taxpayers “skip the check” and collect their tax refunds at Walmart stores across the country.

Here’s how it works: You have your taxes done at one of 25,000 outside tax preparers that offer Walmart’s “Direct2Cash” option and choose the service, which will cost you another $7 at most. Once you get a confirmation code, you go to Walmart and pick up your refund, in cash.

This is the latest in a growing list of financial services Walmart offers. You can also open a checking account and shop for health insurance at Walmart.

Walmart says its cash refund service is the first of its kind. The Internal Revenue Service lets you collect your refund a couple of ways. The simplest and fastest is to route your refund to your checking or savings account via direct deposit. If you don’t have a bank account or don’t want to use direct deposit, you can get your refund by check.

However, without a bank account, cashing a check can be expensive. Walmart reports that tax preparers charge clients a $20 fee to receive a refund by check. Then, Walmart says, you sometimes have to pay 1% to 2% of the check amount to a check cashing service to get your money. Last year, the average tax refund was $3,096, according to the IRS—which means you could pay more than $80 to get your refund.

Many Americans could face such a steep fee: About 9.6 million households had no bank account in 2013, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But if customers pay only $7 at the time of filing, and Walmart doesn’t collect its own fee when customers pick up their checks, what’s in it for Walmart?

“It’s always a good thing to have customers in our stores who have jingles in their wallets and their pockets,” says Daniel Eckard, senior vice president for services for Walmart.

For customers, however, there’s a catch: Because you have to do your taxes at one of the 25,000 participating tax prep locations, you can’t take advantage of the IRS’s online tax-filing service, which gives you access to free online software if you earn less than $60,000. And if you make less than $53,000, you usually qualify for free in-person assistance from an IRS-certified volunteer (search irs.gov for a site near you).

So while you will pay no more than $7 to get your refund in cash, you may have to pay someone for the actual tax prep. Eckard says the costs will vary “on a preparer by preparer basis.”

The average cost for tax preparation is $246, according to a survey from the National Society of Accountants. Simple returns can be cheaper: The average cost of filing a Form 1040 and state return without itemizing deductions is $143.

“It’s not just how much it costs you to cash the check. It’s the sum total cost of what it costs you to get your money,” says Brett Theodos, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. “The costs of tax prep are going to outstrip the costs of check cashing, but they still add up.”

Your cheapest option is to file your taxes for free and open a bank account where you can deposit your refund.

While banking fees have been on the rise, making it hard to maintain an account when you’re financially squeezed, MONEY has surveyed the 70 biggest banks in the country to uncover the ones with the most generous terms. Use our Bank Selector tool to find the best one for you. Or see if you’re eligible to open an account at a local credit union, which usually offers lower fees and higher savings yields. Here’s how to find the credit union for you.

If you can’t or don’t want to open a bank account, you might be able to get your refund on a prepaid debit card. New York, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and South Carolina let you receive your tax refund on a state-issued debit card, Bankrate reports. Some paid tax preparers will also load your refund onto their own prepaid cards. But prepaid cards may carry fees that cut into your refund, and if your prepaid card is lost or stolen, you could be out the money.

“Some of these account cards that are attached to institutions can actually be not-great deals,” Theodos says.

And if you do need to cash a check? At least one big retailer is now vying for your business. “It’s interesting—Walmart has emerged as the lower-cost place to cash your check,” Theodos says. “They must be viewing this as a successful business model.”

Correction: This story was updated to correct Daniel Eckard’s quote. He said “jingles,” not “jiggles.” We regret the error.

MONEY College

The Problem With Obama’s “Free Community College” Proposal

US President Barack Obama speaks on new proposals for higher education accessibility at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 9, 2015. Looking on are US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden.
US President Barack Obama speaks on new proposals for higher education accessibility at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 9, 2015. Looking on are US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's free college plan won't actually raise the number of college graduates without improvements in the way community colleges help students succeed, say two education researchers.

President Obama’s ambitious proposal to make community college tuition free would certainly make enrolling in college more affordable. It may also induce students to stay there longer.

However, reducing costs for students on its own is unlikely to significantly increase the number of students who finish degrees. Consider: Of all of the students who enrolled in public community college for the first time in the fall of 2003, only one-quarter earned any kind of certificate or associate’s degree within six years. Another 12% earned a bachelor’s degree within that six-year period.

If we want to significantly improve educational outcomes, we need to both make college more affordable so more students can enroll, and make the reforms needed to ensure community college students can succeed in their courses, complete their programs, and graduate within a reasonable amount of time.

President Obama’s plan would certainly make community college more affordable. Even for the 40% of community college students whose tuition is already covered by federal and state aid, other expenses (food, transportation, books, etc.) often present insurmountable hurdles. If grants are awarded to eligible students on top of free tuition, as President Obama proposes, then many of these affordability issues would be addressed.

But the Tennessee and Chicago free tuition policies that inspired President Obama also address the broader barriers to success. The affordability improvements in those communities are one part of larger reforms designed to dramatically boost the success of community college students by providing close monitoring of student progress, careful alignment of courses to transfer and job requirements, clearer and more coherent programs of study, and help for students to make better choices about what to study.

Such reforms, many features of which have also been enacted in the City University of New York’s Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs (ASAP), have doubled the graduation rate for participants. But at a cost: ASAP costs 60% more per student than the standard CUNY program.

Laudably, President Obama’s proposal does try to address quality. It includes requirements that community colleges “adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.” But his plan does not provide colleges with additional resources to help them in these efforts.

In fact, it is possible that his plan could reduce the money community colleges are able to spend on improving outcomes.

The White House estimates that the free tuition program would cost $6 billion a year. But that money would simply replace the tuition students were already paying, not increase colleges’ revenue. States would be required to pay for one-quarter of this tuition subsidy. Some may raise that money by decreasing the direct subsidies they give colleges now, which currently cover approximately two-thirds of the cost of educating each student.

Despite these obstacles, the president’s proposal opens the door to a broader discussion of a comprehensive strategy for community colleges that emphasizes both affordability and performance.

Community colleges are the launchpad for opportunity for all Americans, enrolling almost half of the nation’s undergraduates. They are especially crucial for those who have, traditionally, been excluded from other kinds of higher education.

For these millions of students seeking brighter futures at community colleges, we need bold and transformative change and renewed public investment to ensure they have college options that are both affordable and of high quality.

Thomas Bailey is director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University and co-author of the forthcoming Redesigning America’s Community Colleges (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Judith Scott-Clayton is a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.

MONEY Benefits

Why Some Same-Sex Couples May Have to Marry Now

Same-sex wedding toppers on top of aspirin bottle
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (2)

With same-sex marriage legal in 35 states and D.C., a few employers are starting to roll back back health insurance and other benefits for domestic partners.

Until recently, same-sex couples could not legally marry. Now, some are finding they must wed if they want to keep their partner’s job-based health insurance and other benefits.

With same-sex marriage now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia, some employers that formerly covered domestic partners say they will require marriage licenses for workers who want those perks.

“We’re bringing our benefits in line, making them consistent with what we do for everyone else,” said Ray McConville, a spokesman for Verizon, which notified non-union employees in July that domestic partners in states where same-sex marriage is legal must wed if they want to qualify for such benefits.

Employers making the changes say that since couples now have the legal right to marry, they no longer need to provide an alternative. Such rule changes could also apply to opposite-sex partners covered under domestic partner arrangements.

“The biggest question is: Will companies get rid of benefit programs for unmarried partners?” said Todd Solomon, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

It is legal for employers to set eligibility requirements for the benefits they offer workers and their families — although some states, such as California, bar employers from excluding same-sex partners from benefits. But some benefit consultants and advocacy groups say there are legal, financial and other reasons why couples may not want to marry.

Requiring marriage licenses is “a little bossy” and feels like “it’s not a voluntary choice at that point,” said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, an organization advocating for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

About two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, but only a minority is changing the rules to require tying the knot, said Deena Fidas, director of the workplace equality program at the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

Because same-sex marriage isn’t legal in all states, “many employers operating in multiple states … are retaining their partner benefit structures,” said Fidas.

Most companies making the changes, including Verizon, are doing so only in those states where same-sex couples can get married. And most give workers some time to do it.

“We gave them a year and a quarter to get married,” said Jim Redmond, spokesman for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, which made the change for employees shortly after New York allowed same-sex unions.

Employers that offer domestic partner benefits — for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners — generally allow couples in committed relationships to qualify for health and other benefits upon providing documents, such as financial statements, wills, rental agreements or mortgages, proving they are responsible for each other financially.

Such benefits were particularly important before the federal health law barred insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“We had clients over the years who were living with HIV … the only health insurance they had, or had hope of getting was their partner’s, through a job,” said Daniel Bruner, director of legal services at the Whitman-Walker Health clinic in Washington D.C. “Now folks have more health insurance options.”

After the Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in 2013, the portion of the health insurance premium paid by employers on behalf of the same-sex spouse was no longer taxable under federal rules, although state taxes often applied where such marriages were not legal. When state marriage laws change, so do those tax rules.

In Arizona, Dena Sidmore and her wife, Cherilyn Walley are saving more than $300 a month in taxes on the health insurance from Walley’s state job, which covers them both. The savings came after the state’s same-sex marriage bar was thrown out by the courts in October.

They didn’t marry for benefits. They already had coverage under domestic partner requirements affecting Arizona state workers. They simply wanted to be married. Indeed, they tied the knot in September 2013, after driving all night to Santa Fe, N.M., where same-sex marriage was legal.

“It was lovely,” Sidmore said of the ceremony at the courthouse. But for her, the real change came when Arizona’s bar on same-sex marriage was overturned by the courts. She remembers thinking: “This is real. It’s not just a piece of paper.”

After the courts lifted the same-sex marriage ban, Arizona dropped its domestic partner program. State workers had until the end of last year to marry if they wanted to keep a partner on benefits.

Sidmore has no objection to employers requiring a marriage license for benefits because “spousal benefits require marriage,” although she thinks there should be exceptions for older residents who might face the loss of pensions or other financial complications if they remarry.

Benefit experts recommend that employers consider what it might mean for workers if benefits are linked to marital status — especially those that operate in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

While some couples, like Sidmore and Walley, may be willing to travel to tie the knot, others may not want to, or may be unable to afford it. Additionally, some workers may fear if they marry, then move or get transferred to a state where same-sex marriage is barred, they would face discrimination.

Joe Incorvati, a managing director at KPMG in New Jersey, married his partner, Chuck, in 2013 when it became an option. “We’d been together for 38 years, so it just seemed natural,” he said.

KPMG offers domestic partner benefits and does not require employees to be married for eligibility. While he’s comfortable in New Jersey, Incorvati said it could be a problem if his company wanted to transfer him to a state where same sex marriage is not legal.

Even though his work benefits would remain the same, “Would I have the same rights as in New Jersey?” Incorvati asked. “The answer may be no.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

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