U lifts tax on same-sex marriage benefits

Starting Aug. 1, University employees with same-sex spouses will no longer have to pay an extra tax on their benefits plan.

Steff Yorek visits her partner Jess Sundin during one of her treatments at the Phillips Wangensteen Building on East Bank, Tuesday morning. Formally married in Washington, their marriage will be legally recognized in Minnesota on August 1st.

Bridget Bennett

Steff Yorek visits her partner Jess Sundin during one of her treatments at the Phillips Wangensteen Building on East Bank, Tuesday morning. Formally married in Washington, their marriage will be legally recognized in Minnesota on August 1st.

Hailey Colwell

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday that it will extend benefits coverage to employees’ same-sex spouses and their children starting today, Aug. 1.

Previously, this coverage was offered only to employees’ registered same-sex domestic partners, and the benefits were taxed as income — creating an extra cost for those employees.

Beginning today when same-sex marriages will be recognized in Minnesota, University employees who provide documentation of their marriage will no longer have to pay an extra tax to cover same-sex spouses and dependents under age 26, according to an email sent to University employees by Kathy Brown,  vice president for human resources.

The benefits changes apply to University employees living in Minnesota and other states where same-sex marriage is legal.

In March, University staff member Steff Yorek legally married her partner, Jess Sundin, in Washington. Yorek said she was pleased to hear about the change, which will allow her to include Sundin as a spouse on her employee benefits plan.

“I’m glad that things are the way that they should be,” she said.

In the email, Brown said the University’s Office of Human Resources has received  a lot of questions about whether same-sex domestic partners can still be covered by employees’ benefits plans. She said she will hold discussions with affected employees about this and other aspects of the law change.

“Our goal is to ensure equitable benefits offerings to all of our employees,” Brown said in the email.

For now, employees with registered same-sex partners on their plan will continue to have the value of their benefits taxed as income unless they get married.

The University is asking employees with a same-sex spouse already registered as a domestic partner to provide a marriage license to cover their spouse on their benefits plan. It’s also requesting that newly-married employees who aren’t registered as same-sex domestic partners sign up for marriage benefits within 30 days of their marriage or before Aug. 30, if they were married before Aug. 1. Couples who don’t sign up during the 30-day window will have to wait until the next open enrollment for University benefits in November.

The University still awaits federal and state regulations that may result in more changes, the email said. For example, the University is waiting for federal guidelines on whether to tax married same-sex couples who work at the University but live in a state where same-sex marriage is not legal.

 

Emma Nelson contributed to this report.