Gaining Confidence throughout 1L

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 5.23.57 PMThe year has come to a close at last. I am certain that my first year of law school will serve me well in ways I cannot even foresee right now. Other benefits, however, are already apparent.

For instance, the other day my fiancée was re-enrolling in her workplace’s employment benefits program. She was trying to put me on her dental plan, but the form asked her whether I was her “eligible dependent, including a spouse or child, within the meaning of the sections 105 and 106 of the US tax code.” Since we do live together and are engaged but are not yet married, she wasn’t sure how to answer. Neither was I.

But then I did something that, last August, I would have thought was crazy: I pulled up the IRS’ tax code and looked at §§ 105 and 106. They weren’t much help, because all those sections said was that income used to pay for health plans for “spouses,” “dependents,” and “children” qualified for tax-exempt status. Last year, that would have stumped me, but this year has taught me that all I need do is look up what “dependent” means within the code.

So, I did. Turns out that definition was in § 152, but there I hit another bump.  The definition of “dependent” was a “qualifying child” or a “qualifying relative.” Now, I know I have my silly moments, but I’m certainly not a child. Am I a “qualifying relative”? I worried I was not, but it turned out a relative could be anyone who shared the same “abode” as my fiancée and was part of her “household.”

So, I looked up how that section defined household. Apparently, as long as living together does not violate local law, two people may be considered to share a “household.” Now, I’m pretty certain that our cohabitation doesn’t violate local law (though to be honest I have not read any of West Roxbury, Massachusetts’ local laws), so I am fairly certain that I’m a part of my fiancée’s household. And because we do share the same “abode,” that also means I’m her qualifying relative, which means that I’m an “eligible dependent,” which hopefully means that I’m covered by her dental insurance.

Wow: dental insurance and the IRS tax code. We’re cooking with gas, I know. As mundane as this little investigation was, in retrospect it demonstrated that I felt totally confident cracking open a set of statutes and clicking from one to the other, cobbling together definitions until I had an answer. And that felt pretty cool. It’s duly noted, of course, that I’ve never taken a tax class and have not read any of the case law interpreting what dependent, relative, abode, or household mean as a matter of law, so I’m not at all certain my conclusion was correct. That said, last year I would have rather eaten a ball of cat fur than rummaged around the US tax code. The other day, it felt like the most natural course of action I could take.

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