Depending On How This Gay Court Stuff Goes, Ernst & Young Might Have a Little Extra Pocket Change

According to this recent HuffPo article, a favorable DOMA decision might save a few bucks for big employers like Ernst & Young:

After her partner gave birth to triplets in 1998, Chris Crespo began paying closer attention to the employee benefits offered by her company, major accounting firm Ernst & Young.

"I wanted to make sure that there was coverage for my children," said Crespo, an accountant who lives in Western Pennsylvania with her partner of nearly 30 years. "And I began looking more at the long-term questions of how I could support the family."

In 2002, Crespo and others in the company's LGBT community succeeded in persuading the firm to offer benefits to employees in long-term domestic partnerships. But those benefits came with a cost. Whereas married employees don't pay taxes on their benefits, unmarried domestic partners do, sometimes to the tune of several thousand dollars a year. And because the federal government and states like Pennsylvania don't recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, Crespo and many others were essentially penalized for being gay.

Now, as lawyers present their arguments in the second of two historic cases on gay marriage before the Supreme Court, Ernst & Young finds itself among a wide range of private companies with a financial stake in the verdict, partly because of its recent decision to reimburse employees who are forced to shoulder that added tax burden.

This practice, known as "grossing up," is increasingly common, but it may soon be obviated by the court. If gay employees win the right to marry in states like Pennsylvania, and if the federal government recognizes the legitimacy of those unions, people like Crespo will no longer have to pay taxes on their benefits — and Ernst & Young and dozens of other companies would save money that they might have otherwise spent on offsetting government tax penalties.

Coyly, Uncle Ernie declined to say just how much he'd save but according to the "expert" tapped by HuffPo for the article, it's an amount. That's all we know:

Although Ernst & Young declined to say exactly how much they'd save, Justin Nelson, president of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a group that advocates for the interest of the LGBT business community, argued that the costs of grossing up are significant.

"It is a cost to corporate America, a cost to big businesses, and a cost to small businesses," he said.

EY started offering the offsets in January of 2012 and was the first Big 4 firm to do so, per the press release you knew they had to send out:

“Ernst & Young strives to promote an equitable work culture in every way possible,” said Karyn Twaronite, Americas Inclusiveness Officer, Ernst & Young LLP. “Our decision to provide this tax gross-up reinforces our long-standing pledge to foster a work environment that is inclusive for all of our people and signals our ongoing efforts to remain a leader in providing equitable benefits.”

No word on whether straight couples who are shacked up but not married get the same benefits. You know, in the name of providing equitable benefits and all.

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