Domestic partners in California must file their federal tax returns separately, despite a 2003 law that extended equal legal rights to registered same-sex couples in the state.

A m emo out of the Internal Revenue Service's Office of Chief Counsel cites case law from the 1930s and 1940s in which the Supreme Court ruled community property laws can only be applied to husbands and wives.

California is one of nine community property states and, since 1999, has extended certain legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples registered with the state. On Jan. 1, 2005, the state's Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act went into effect, providing domestic partners with the same rights as married spouses.

In being enacted, the act removed a joint tax return provision that required partners to file separate state and federal returns. The IRS memo says that because the California Act does not "make an incident of marriage by the inveterate policy of the state," registered domestic partners in the state must report all of their income earned from the performance of their personal services.The IRS memorandum cannot be used or cited as a precedent.

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