Treasury issues new rules for same-sex couples

The federal government issued new rules Monday to make it easier for same-sex couples to sign up for benefits.

The Treasury Department and the IRS would allow same-sex couples to sign up for certain federal spending accounts in the middle of the year, which normally isn’t allowed.

That decision comes after the Supreme Court invalidated key chunks of the Defense of Marriage Act this year in U.S. v. Windsor.

Following that decision, Treasury and the IRS have already said that the federal government would recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes, even if those couples lived in a state that didn’t.

“This notice underscores the Administration’s continued commitment to providing equal access to federal benefits, regardless of sexual orientation,” Treasury’s Betsy Bourassa said in a blog post.

The new federal rules would temporarily give same-sex couples more flexibility to sign up for flexible spending accounts health savings accounts an so-called cafeteria plans that allow participants to choose certain benefits pre-tax, as if off a menu.

In most cases, participants can only make their cafeteria plan choices and enroll spouses in health plans once a year. But because of Windsor, Treasury is allowing those sign-ups to happen in the middle of a plan year, if necessary.