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Tax filings show high concentration of gay men in D.C.

Records also illustrate significant pay gap along gender lines

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domestic partner benefits, gay news, Washington Blade
tax filings, domestic partner benefits, gay news, Washington Blade

Changes in national same-sex marriage laws have had dramatic impact on tax filing practices as one would expect.

About 250,450 same-sex couples file joint tax returns in 2015, according to a new report from the Brookings Institute. Over the two previous years, the number of same-sex filers increased about 40 percent each year from about 131,080 filers in 2013 and 183,280 in 2014.

Changes in marriage laws are the main reason for the spike, researchers said. A 2013 Supreme Court invalidation of a key provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (Windsor v. U.S.) allowed same-sex couples to be treated as married for all federal tax purposes if they were legally married in a state where it was recognized. And in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

In “Same-sex married tax filers after Windsor and Obergefell,” available for download at brookings.edu, Brookings Senior Fellow Adam Looney, along with Robin Fisher and Geof Gee at the Treasury Department Office of Tax Analysis, examine data from jointly-filed tax returns to provide the first analysis of marriage patterns of same-sex couples in the years immediately following the significant Supreme Court rulings.

In general, overall rates of same-sex filing in 2015 were highest in states that had legalized same-sex marriage prior to 2013 or in 2013. In states that had not legalized same-sex marriage until 2015, rates were relatively lower up to and including the year 2015. The percentage increase in same-sex filing, however, was relatively high in those states.

When compared with different-sex couples filing jointly, the analysis reveals that same-sex joint filers are generally younger, higher income and less likely to claim dependent children. In 2015, 48 percent of different-sex couples claimed children as dependents, compared with 28 percent of female-female couples and just 7 percent of male-male couples. Same sex joint filers are also more likely to live in metropolitan areas and coastal states than different-sex filers.

The analysis examines where same sex couples live in several different ways: By using geographic areas defined by state, by regional labor markets (“commuting zones”) and in select large five-digit zip codes. Unsurprisingly, there are large differences in the number and share of same-sex couples filing in different states, with the highest proportion of same-sex filers living in coastal states, in certain metropolitan areas, and in states that had legalized same-sex marriage prior to 2013.

For the U.S. as a whole, same-sex filers made up only 0.48 percent of all joint filers in 2015, though the rates varied widely across the country. In D.C., for instance, which had some of the highest shares of male-male filers, same-sex couples accounted for approximately 4.2 percent of all married filers. States in the south and Midwest had the smallest shares of same-sex filers. In Mississippi and North Dakota, they made up just 0.2 percent of all filers.

In addition to geographic differences, the report also sheds light on pay disparities between same-sex couples and their different-sex peers and how the disparities differ depending on whether a couple is comprised of two men or two women.

To start with, the gap in average annual incomes of male-male couples and female-female couples is significant. When comparing the incomes of all joint-filers nationwide aged 25-55 in 2015, female-female couples earn about 68 percent of what male-male couples earn. That’s roughly 10 percentage points greater than the widely cited “pay gap,” that women earn on average 78 cents for every $1 men earn.

What about the gap between same-sex couples and their opposite-sex peers? For 2015 filers nationwide between the ages of 25-55, average household incomes for male same-sex couples was higher than household incomes of opposite-sex couples. Male-male couples earned about $168,233 and different-sex couples earned about $119,803. That’s a gain of about $48,000 for male-male couples. Meanwhile female-female couples made less than their opposite-sex peers — about $5,000 less. Female-female joint filers earned about $115,094.

But much of this can be explained by the concentration of same-sex couples in higher-income coastal states and metropolitan areas. When adjusting to account for location, the gap between the incomes of same-sex and different-sex couples shrinks for men, but grows for women. When comparing same-sex couples with different-sex couples in their own neighborhoods, the analysis reveals that while male-male couples still earn, on average, about $15,000 (or 10 percent) more than different-sex couples, female-female couples actually earn about $16,000 (12 percent) less than their different-sex neighbors.

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Real Estate

City inspection codes: How easy is it to fail?

Be sure to check ventilation, smoke detectors, and more

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Landlords are required to install and maintain smoke detectors in their rental properties.

In the District of Columbia, rental properties are required to meet certain health and safety standards. These standards are set by the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

If you own a rental property in the District of Columbia, you may be required to have your property inspected by the DCRA to ensure that it meets these standards. The inspection process typically involves a DCRA inspector visiting the property and checking for any hazards or code violations.

It’s important to make sure that your property is in good condition and meets the District’s health and safety standards, as failing a rental property inspection can have serious consequences. If your property fails the inspection, you may be required to make repairs or upgrades in order to bring it into compliance. If you are unable to do so, you may be forced to stop renting out the property until the necessary repairs are made.

Overall, the likelihood of failing a rental property inspection in the District of Columbia will depend on the condition of your property and whether it meets the applicable health and safety standards. To minimize the risk of failing an inspection, it’s important to keep your property well maintained and address any potential hazards or code violations as soon as possible.

In the District of Columbia, landlords are responsible for maintaining their rental properties in a safe and habitable condition. If a rental property is not in compliance with the city’s health and safety standards, the landlord may be cited for code violations.

Some common code violations that landlords in the District of Columbia may be cited for include:

• Lack of adequate heating or ventilation: Landlords are required to provide sufficient heating and ventilation systems to ensure the health and safety of their tenants.

• Electrical or plumbing issues: Landlords are responsible for ensuring that their properties have functional electrical and plumbing systems. All plumbing fixtures must be properly sealed, in other words, no holes in the walls. All water heaters require pressure relief valves

Structural issues: Landlords must maintain their properties in a safe and structurally sound condition.

Pest infestations: Landlords are required to address and eliminate pest infestations in their rental properties.

Lack of smoke detectors: Landlords are required to install and maintain smoke detectors in their rental properties. Detectors must be placed 36” from ceiling fan blades and away from the path of the HVAC registers.

Proper locks: All exit and security gate locks must be easy to operate and must not require a key to exit.

It’s important for landlords in the District of Columbia to be aware of these and other code violations and take steps to ensure that their properties are in compliance with the city’s health and safety requirements.

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to www.ColumbiaPM.com.

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Business

Canino Dog Boutique offers healthful food, accessories

Cati Sesana opens new store on Belmont Street in Northwest

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Cati Sesana owns Canino Dog Boutique at 1409 Belmont St., N.W. (Photo courtesy Sesana)

Cati Sesana was sitting at home trying to help her mom find a local shop in D.C. that would have a cute sweater for her dog but couldn’t find much outside of the big-box stores. Last month, she opened Canino Dog Boutique to solve the problem.

“I was like ‘Let me do some research,’ there are shops like this in New York but I don’t know of one in D.C.,” she said.  

However, Sesana had a long journey from researching the pet boutique business to her opening day. Sesana played water polo at George Washington University and majored in music, so she didn’t know much about starting a business. 

One of her first tasks was figuring out what she was going to sell. 

“Initially I was just going to do accessories or apparel and not treats or food,” she said. “But I got really deep into pet nutrition and what’s going to make your dog live the longest.”

She recalled the initial trouble she had with finding food for her dog, Aiko and wanted to eliminate that worry for her customers. 

“I only carry two dog food brands, so I kind of get rid of that overwhelming decision-making that’s like, ‘What do I do? What’s right for my dog?’ so I only carry brands I know and trust,” she said. 

As for her apparel and accessories, she only sells products from small and local shops that don’t have distribution in major retailers. One of the local shops Sesana purchases from told her that she was their first retailer and that since then, business has improved. 

“By shopping here, you’re helping other small businesses and it all kind of domino effects,” Sesana said. 

As a first-time business owner herself, Sesana knows all about the obstacles of trying to get a small business off the ground. 

 “The biggest challenge was finding a landlord that would give me an opportunity,” she said. 

Sesana visited spaces in a lot of high foot-traffic shopping areas, like Georgetown and met plenty of landlords who loved her concept but didn’t want a first-time business owner. 

“I think the pandemic scared landlords from giving smaller businesses a chance, because so many closed,” she said. “But then the personality of a neighborhood kind of disintegrates a lot. … Why would I come to 14th Street when I can shop from Lululemon online?”

Finally, Sesana was given a chance for a space just off of 14th Street on Belmont Street. Conveniently located next to Streets Market and across the street from Doozydog! Club.

On Nov. 6 she opened her doors and has worked every day since then. The store is open Monday through Friday, from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4-7 p.m. and on weekend 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sesana is currently the only employee. 

“I am the company graphic designer, customer service, and dog walker!” she said, motioning to her dog lying in his doggie bed. 

After Sesana closes the store, she is out into the night playing the drums in a band. 

She says that being a musician has given her the right mentality to get through the long days at her boutique. 

“Slow days are tough, but I can zoom out and see the bigger picture,” she said.

Canino Dog Boutique is located at 1409 Belmont St NW, Washington, DC 20009

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Real Estate

Top tax benefits of homeownership

Mortgage interest, property tax deductions, and more

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Thinking of buying a house? Here are some of the many tax advantages that come with homeownership.

As we are closing out 2023 and getting ready to start 2024, now is a good time to review what tax benefits most homeowners are getting. There are several categories that you can look at to see if you will benefit from being a homeowner. According to RocketMortgage.com, here are some of them:

  • Mortgage interest.  Most newer homeowners are paying more on the interest in their monthly mortgage payment than on the principal, so this could be a big tax benefit.
  • Home equity loan interest – HELOC (home equity line of credit) loans are like a 2nd mortgage on your home. Many homeowners can use it to make upgrades to their house and interest on these loans is deductible if you used it for that purpose.
  • Discount points – for those of you that purchased in the last year or so these may apply, as these are the price paid to lower an interest rate on a loan.
  • Property taxes – depending on where you live, your state and local property taxes may be a big source of tax deductions for you.
  • Necessary home improvements – even if you did not use a HELOC to improve your home, some of your expenses in this category may be deductible.
  • Home office expenses – as more and more people are working from home, this should not go unexamined in your search to find tax deductions.
  • Capital Gains – a capital gain is the difference between the value of a home when you sold it versus when you borrowed it. So, if you sold your home for a significant profit and did not roll over those gains into a new property within a short period of selling the old property, then ask your tax professional up to which amount of these profits are not taxable.

We asked Tina Del Casale ([email protected]), a DMV-area lender with Sandy Spring Bank, what she thought about the tax benefits of homeownership, and here is her answer:

“Most homeowners wish they knew sooner that most every major home improvement can reduce your future capital gains when you are ready to sell your home. While the deduction for a single person is $250,000, and for married couples is $500,000, the DMV has seen property appreciation that outpaces those numbers. So keep ALL your receipts for replacement items like your HVAC, windows, doors, roof, major landscaping and updating bathrooms and kitchens. You will thank me later! Of course most importantly consult a tax adviser for up-to-date information!”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us if you have more questions and happy holidays! Let’s get you home for the holidays.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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