Monday, January 27, 2014

Palm Beach County Clerk Sharon Bock providing 'tax equity' for unmarried employees

  • Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock plans to start reimbursing unmarried employees who face higher federal taxes for the county health benefits they receive for their domestic partners.
            Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock

January 22, 2014
By Andy Reid, Sun Sentinel

Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock has enacted a new “tax equity” policy aimed at preventing gay, lesbian and other unmarried employees from facing a federal tax penalty on health insurance for their partners.

The change in policy reimburses unmarried employees with registered domestic partners for the additional federal income taxes they have to pay when accepting county health benefits for their partners.

The federal government doesn’t equate an unmarried domestic partner to a spouse and as a result clerk employees whose unmarried domestic partners get county-provided health benefits face paying taxes on those benefits.

“This is a fairness issue,” Bock said. “I want to ensure our employees are treated equally. That means employees with domestic partners should not have to pay more for their insurance coverage than their married colleagues who cover their spouses’ health insurance.”

Other branches of county government, including the Property Appraiser’s Office, Tax Collector’s Office and County Commission-controlled departments have also enacted tax equity policies.

Domestic partnership registries are aimed at establishing rights and financial benefits for couples that are either not allowed to marry or choose not to get married. Domestic partnerships can be established by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

The Clerk’s office has been offering domestic partner benefits to employees since 2004.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council for years has pushed for more domestic partnership benefits and for ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“It is encouraging that once again, a Palm Beach County constitutional officer has taken steps to ensure that her employees with domestic partners receive equal take-home pay for equal work,” Council President Rand Hoch said.