Chang bill improves tax law on cohabitation

LANSING – Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) today introduced legislation to remove part of a 1931 law that punishes unmarried couples living together and prohibits qualified residents from claiming a dependent exemption on their federal taxes.

Senate Bill 308 would strike section 335 of the Michigan Penal Code, which forbids an unmarried man and woman from cohabitating together if they “associated lewdly and lasciviously.” The law — which carries a misdemeanor penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison — has not been enforced for some time, but tax implications remain for those couples. Michigan is one of only three states that has this type of law on the books.

“Things are very different than they were in 1931, and it’s our job as legislators to change the law accordingly,” Sen. Chang said. “This legislation makes social and economic sense: As the cost of living increases and as our society changes, more and more unmarried couples are living together to help pay the bills, or just because they have chosen to take the step of sharing a home together. Making this change could help some families in my district and statewide get a little more of their money back on their tax returns.”  

The IRS tax code, Section 152(f)(3), states, “An individual shall not be treated as a member of the taxpayer’s household if at any time during the taxable year of the taxpayer the relationship between such individual and the taxpayer is in violation of local law.” Because of Michigan’s “lewd and lascivious” provision in law, cohabitating couples are not only violating the law, but they cannot qualify as a dependent.

Senate Bill 308 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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