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Miami Beach passes ordinance to reimburse federal tax on domestic partners' health insurance

Both SAVE Dade and Equality Florida have thanked the Miami Beach City Commission for passing an ordinance Wednesday that allows reimbursement of federal taxes on health benefits to city employees in domestic partnerships.

Previously, Hallandale Beach, Bay Harbor Islands and West Palm Beach have done the same.

From SAVE Dade:

"SAVE Dade welcomed the passage of a first-of-its-kind ordinance providing for reimbursement of taxes on health benefits to city employees in domestic partnerships.  The unanimous vote was hailed as another step forward for a city that in recent years has put itself ahead of the curve when it comes to LGBT issues.

“This ordinance finally puts city employees in domestic partnerships, whether same- or opposite-sex, on a level playing field with couples in legally recognized marriages when it comes to paying taxes on health benefits,” said SAVE Dade Executive Director CJ Ortuño.

Because the federal government determines the tax policy in question, the new city ordinance does not altogether remove the tax liability for municipal employees in domestic partnerships but rather provides for a workaround.  The new policy states that taxes on health benefits paid by employees in domestic partnerships will be reimbursed by the city.  Effectively, the City of Miami Beach will foot the bill for employees in domestic partnerships suffering under an unequal tax code on the federal level.

“Before this vote, the policy on the books forced city employees in domestic partnerships to pay taxes that those in marriages did not have to pay.  In effect it meant that city employees in domestic partnerships lost wages worth upwards of $1,000 every year.  The new policy corrects that inequality,” explained Ortuño.  “We applaud the City of Miami Beach for taking a bold step in the right direction.”

From Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer:

I have just left the Miami Beach Commission where moments ago Mayor Bower and the commissioners unanimously approved a new Tax Equity Policy for city employees. The new policy is the strongest and most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S., and it ensures that city employees with domestic partners will no longer pay thousands more in taxes for their partner's health insurance than married employees pay.*

miamibeachordinance Florida is leading the nation on Tax Equity policies and has passed six of these policies already this year - more than have ever been passed in the rest of the country combined.

Equality Florida has been working closely with Miami Beach for more than a year on this landmark policy, which we believe will become a model for the nation. EQFL staff assisted the Miami Beach LGBT Business Enhancement Committee in bringing the issue forward in the spring of 2012. We have provided ongoing technical support, background research, and economic studies to city staff drafting the policy. And we have participated in every public hearing and workshop on the policy.

A huge thank you to Commissioner Gongora for sponsoring the ordinance and to the Mayor and all of the commissioners for their passionate and unanimous support.Thank you also to city staff who put in long hours in the months leading up to today’s vote to ensure the policy was as strong as it possibly could be.

And finally, thank you to our partners on the Miami Beach LGBT Business Enhancement Committee, the Miami Beach Human Rights Committee, the Williams Institute, HRC, SAVE Dade, the Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the Miami Beach LGBT Visitors Center who all contributed to this victory.

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The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser, the Constitutional Tax Collector in Palm Beach County and the City of West Palm Beach have already implemented similar programs - and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is working with the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners as well as the School Board of Palm Beach County on the issue.

Kudos to Miami Beach Assistant City Attorney Rob Rosenwald for his work on this ordinance. PBCHRC will be urging our elected officials to use the work done in Miami Beach as the model for future ordinances on tax equity reimbursements.

What happens if the pair splits?
Do they each continue to get their taxes paid?
If not, how will the city know if they are no longer together, since there are no public record of the break-up? Are there penalties for those who break up but don't notify the city of their change of status?
Are there any restrictions / definitions on who qualifies as domestic partners? Can there be more than two people? Must they be unrelated?

This is a beautiful thing. I'm proud of Miami Beach. The only shame is that this is required in this day and age where marriage equality should be a presumed and unfettered right, not something to be parlayed in political halls. Shame on the U.S. Congress and the state level cowboys in Tallahassee! The very basis of our rights of citizens and independence from tyranny would allow these citizens to have the same access to marital protections, responsibilities but also privileges as other residents. It takes a lot of gall as a national government to presume to have the right to collect taxes from a class of citizen's to whom you deny the very services paid from the money's collected. It is tantamount to taxation without representation. (I speak as one who has served our military from 1978 and recently retired in 2012 with 8 years overseas and three recent combat tours): I say this because I was afforded the benefits of that service, to include education and retirement benefits, paid for in part, by those who were denied the ability to openly serve and, as a consequence, denied the same ability to leverage the social, and material benefits for having done so. Who are we, as a nation, to impose a religious bias on what is intrinsically, a civil license? Last I remember, a Justice of the Peace signed my marriage license and irrespective a religious persuasion or officiating synagogue, church, etc., the license comes through and is recognized by the state apparatus. Let us move on to civility and love for all. I'm proud of you Miami Beach - Thank you.

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