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Chapter 6. Income Taxes > Domestic Partners

Domestic Partners

Dependency exemptions are not restricted to family members. One member of an unmarried couple living together may be able to get the tax benefits of claiming his or her domestic partner as a dependent if the income of the partner claimed as a dependent does not exceed $3,000.


Whether domestic partners can be claimed as dependents by their live-in companion is a matter of state law. According to the U.S. Court of Appeals in a famous North Carolina case, regulation of marriage and domestic affairs is left to the individual states to determine. Therefore, in applying the tax laws, the IRS defers to applicable state laws in domestic matters. For domestic partners to take advantage of the dependency exemption for a domestic partner, the relationship must not violate the laws of the state in which the domestic partners live. In the North Carolina case, the U.S. Appeals Court interpreted the North Carolina lewd and lascivious cohabitation law as prohibiting people from living together outside of marriage. The lawyers for the North Carolina taxpayer who was trying to take his twenty-one-year-old domestic partner as a dependent argued that the North Carolina law was unconstitutionally vague and therefore could not be applied to the taxpayer. In its decision denying the exemption and upholding the lewd and lascivious cohabitation law, the U.S. Court of Appeals said that what the statute prohibited was “more or less habitual intercourse.” It did not, the judges said, prohibit “a single or occasional sex act.” The judges went on to say, however, that “repeated sex acts within a period of several weeks may be found to be the habitual intercourse” that violates the statute. Although precise guidelines were not set by the Court, perhaps someday they will let the people of North Carolina know precisely how often they can make love without being lewd and lascivious.


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