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Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Adopts Domestic Partnership Tax Equity Program
West Palm Beach, Florida) — Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary R. Nikolits, CFA, is implementing a policy to offset the additional taxes paid by employees who elect to provide health insurance to their domestic partners. The action was taken upon the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a non-profit organization, has been the prime mover for domestic partnership benefits in Palm Beach County for more than two decades.
The new policy, which goes into effect in January, provides employees who elect to insure their domestic partners with a tax equity reimbursement aimed at mitigating the impact of the additional imputed income tax.
Under current federal tax laws, opposite-sex married employees with employer-provided family health insurance are not taxed on the value of that coverage. In contrast, all unmarried employees with domestic partners are subjected to additional federal taxes, since the value of domestic partner health insurance is taxed as income to the employee. As a result, employees with domestic partners pay more federal taxes than married opposite-sex employees.
“There is a disparity between the benefits received by married couples and those received by domestic partners,” said Nikolits. “This new policy will level the playing field for both married couples and unmarried couples who are in long-term committed relationships. It is an issue of fairness.”
“Federal legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to end the taxation of health insurance benefits provided to domestic partners was first introduced in 2003 by Florida Senator Bob Graham,” said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “However, little progress has been made in Congress since then.”
“Leaders such as Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits know it is unfair to wait for Congress to pass a law to ease the tax burden on employees who insure their domestic partners,” said Hoch.
Nikolits is the first elected constitutional officer in Florida to implement a tax equity program. His office has offered domestic partnership health insurance since 2004.
This past week, TD Bank announced that it will begin offsetting the tax burden that its employees pay for domestic-partner benefits. Other private employers who have implemented similar programs include American Express, Apple, Bank of America Corp.,Cisco Systems Inc, Corning, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Kimpton Hotels, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and Yahoo!
“The trend in private employment is to implement tax equity programs for employees who elect domestic partnership health insurance coverage,” said Hoch. “However, in public employment, only Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hallandale, Florida, and now, the Office of the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits, have taken steps to address this tax inequity.”
As a result of the efforts of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council since 1992, domestic partnership heath insurance benefits are offered by the municipalities of Delray Beach, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Wellington and West Palm Beach, as well as by Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County School District, the Port of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach County Health Care District, Palm Beach State College, the Children’s Services Council, Palm Tran, Seacoast Utility Authority, the Solid Waste Authority and all five of Palm Beach County’s constitutional officers.
“We are optimistic that during 2013, at least a half-dozen other public employers in Palm Beach County will follow the lead set by Property Appraiser Nikolits,” said Hoch.