Human Resources & Workforce Diversity
Domestic Partner Benefits for University of Wisconsin Employees
Summary of Domestic Partner Provisions and Enrollment Information for UW System Employees
Please see the summary of domestic partner benefits for information about domestic partner coverage under all benefit plans. The summary includes the process that employees need to follow to establish a domestic partnership and enroll a domestic partner and partner's children in employee benefits.
State Group Health Insurance
In order to cover a domestic partner on health insurance, you must submit a notarized ETF Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (ET-2371) to the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF). Once ETF processes the Affidavit, they will send you an acknowledgement letter confirming the effective date of the domestic partnership. You must submit a copy of ETF's acknowledgment letter confirming the effective date of your domestic partnership and a completed health insurance application to your institution's payroll and benefits office within 30 days of the domestic partnership effective date in order to add your domestic partner to your health insurance. Health insurance coverage for your domestic partner and partner's eligible dependents will be effective as of the domestic partnership effective date, provided a health insurance application is received timely.
Effective August 1, 2010, an employee is not required to add a domestic partner to family health insurance when a domestic partnership is established with the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF). If the employee wants to add a domestic partner's children to health insurance, the employee will still be required to add the domestic partner to coverage.
For additional information about how to enroll a domestic partner under your family health insurance policy, please review ETF's Domestic Partner Benefits Brochure.
IMPORTANT TAX IMPLICATIONS: If your domestic partner or your partner's eligible dependents are not considered tax dependents for health insurance purposes under federal law, the fair market value of the health insurance benefits provided to your partner and partner’s eligible dependents will be included in your gross income. This amount is considered "imputed income." This will increase both your taxable income and your tax liability. Under federal law, a domestic partner cannot qualify as your spouse for purposes of excluding employer-provided health benefits from your taxable income. Unless your domestic partner qualifies as a dependent under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §152, you will be taxed on the fair market value of the cost of coverage provided to your domestic partner.
Please review page 5 of ETF's Domestic Partner Benefits Brochure to help you determine if your domestic partner is considered a tax dependent for employer-provided health insurance benefits.
Your health insurance premium will be deducted on a pre-tax basis. However, the fair market value of the portion of coverage attributable to a domestic partner or other dependent who does not qualify as a dependent under IRC Section 152 (disregarding the limit on gross income) will be calculated and added to your gross pay as taxable income.
In order to be considered a tax dependent, your domestic partner must meet the federal qualifications for a "qualifying relative." Please see IRS Publication 501 or the IRS Form 1040 Instructions, pages 17-20, for more information.
In general, the IRS requires that a "qualifying relative" meet four tests:
- The person does not meet the "qualifying child" tests;
- The person must live with you all year as a member of your household (and your relationship must not violate local law);
- The person’s gross income must be less than $3,800 (indexed annually) for the year. (However, under Internal Revenue Service Notice 2004-79, this gross income limit does not apply for purposes of determining tax dependent status when you are covering the person on your health insurance policy. For health insurance purposes, the domestic partner only needs to meet the remaining three tests to be a qualifying relative).
- You must provide more than half of the person’s support for the year.
The list above should not be used as the sole source of information for determination of your domestic partner’s tax status. UWSA staff cannot provide tax advice. The IRS's tests are described in detail in IRS Publication 501. In addition, you should consult with your tax advisor or the IRS if you have questions on how the federal rules apply to your situation.
NOTE: Any individual who meets the criteria of a “qualifying child” or “qualifying relative” must also meet the definition of “DEPENDENT” under the Uniform Benefits contract to be covered on your health insurance policy.
To help you determine if you provide 50% of your partner's support, please complete the Tax Dependent Status Worksheet. This worksheet should not be used as the sole source of information for determining your domestic partner's tax status. UWSA staff cannot provide tax advice and you should consult all applicable IRS materials and a tax advisor if you have questions regarding federal tax rules. If you need to change the tax status of your domestic partner, please complete the Dependent Tax Status Change Form (UW1541) and submit it to your payroll and benefits office.
For those with an HMO for their health insurance, if there is one non-tax dependent under the family health insurance policy, additional taxes due to imputed income average $150 - $250/month and if there are 2 or more non-tax dependents, additional taxes average $350-$450/month. For those who carry the Standard Plan, the additional taxes are greater than the average. Imputed income calculators are available on the UW Service Center website. These calculators can help you estimate your additional tax liability.
The health insurance imputed tax/fair market value tables are available on ETF's website. If you are covered under the WRS, see the "State - Active Employees" table. If you are not covered under the WRS and have health insurance through the Graduate Assistant/Short-Term Academic Staff health insurance program, see the "State - Graduate Assistants" table. If you have one non-tax dependent on your family health insurance policy (ex. your domestic partner), the fair market value is listed in the "1 non-tax Dependent" column. If you have two or more non-tax dependents on your family health insurance policy (ex. your domestic partner and your domestic partner's child), the fair market value is listed in the "2 or more non-tax Dependents" column. The amount listed in the column will be the amount added to your taxable income to determine your tax liability for the pay period in which you have a health insurance deduction. This amount will also be reflected on your year-end tax statement as "imputed income."
You may want to consult a tax advisor to help you determine how imputed income will affect your tax liability. Please also see IRS Publication 501 to help you determine if your domestic partner or domestic partner's children qualify as tax dependents. For more information about imputed income, please see the "Tax Dependent Status & Domestic Partnership" section of ETF's Domestic Partner Benefits Brochure.
Requirements of a Domestic Partnership
There are two different types of domestic partnerships - unregistered and registered. An unregistered domestic partnership is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in a domestic partnership. This is considered a domestic partnership for employee benefits provided by Chapter 40 of Wisconsin State Statute. A registered domestic partnership is available only to same-sex couples. A domestic partner registry was created by Chapter 770 of Wisconsin State Statute.
To qualify as unregistered domestic partners (available to same‐sex and opposite‐sex domestic partnerships) under Chapter 40 of Wisconsin State Statute, two individuals must meet all of the following criteria:
- Each individual is at least 18 years old and competent to enter into a contract;
- Neither individual is married to, or in a domestic partnership with, another;
- They share a common residence;
- Their partnership must not violate Wis. Stats. 765.03, which bars marriage between certain persons based on kinship and divorce;
- They must consider themselves to be members of each other’s immediate family;
- They must agree to be responsible for each other’s basic living expenses.
In order to be eligible for employee benefits outlined in Chapter 40 of Wisconsin State Statute, employees must meet all of the qualifications of an unregistered domestic partnership.
Benefit Plans Offered
Employee benefits administered by ETF and authorized under Chapter 40 Wis. Stats. are referred to as "Chapter 40 benefits" and include:
- State Group Health Insurance
- State Group Life Insurance
- Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Benefits
- Wisconsin Deferred Compensation
Once an employee establishes a Chapter 40 domestic partnership, the employee is also eligible to cover a domestic partner and partner's eligible children under the following optional employee-pay-all benefit plans that are not authorized by Chapter 40. The plans are referred to as "non-Chapter 40 benefits" and include:
- EPIC Benefits+
- Dental Wisconsin Dental Insurance
- VSP Vision Insurance
- Individual and Family Group Life Insurance
- Accidental Death & Dismemberment Life Insurance
In order to enroll a domestic partner and domestic partner's children in any Chapter 40 benefits, an employee must submit a notarized ETF Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (ET-2371) directly to ETF and also submit a completed benefit enrollment application and a copy of the acknowledgement letter that ETF will send confirming the Chapter 40 domestic partnership effective date, to the appropriate UW institution payroll and benefits office within 30 days of the domestic partnership effective date. The domestic partnership will be effective on the date that ETF receives the completed Affidavit.
If an employee does not create a Chapter 40 domestic partnership, an employee is eligible to enroll a domestic partner and the partner's eligible children in all optional employee-pay-all benefits that are not authorized by Chapter 40, Wis. Stats by submitting a UWS Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (UWS-50) to the appropriate UW institution payroll and benefits office to create a domestic partnership for UW System purposes only. The UWS domestic partnership will be effective on the date the valid affidavit is received by UWS. An employee has 30 days from the UWS domestic partnership effective date to enroll a domestic partner's and partner's eligible children in any applicable benefit plans. If an employee establishes a Chapter 40 domestic partnership with the same partner AFTER creating a UWS domestic partnership, the employee will NOT have another opportunity to enroll the domestic partner in non-Chapter 40 benefits. The domestic partner can only be added if there is an open enrollment or through evidence of insurability, if applicable.
For detailed enrollment information, see Domestic Partner Benefits for UW System Employees (UWS-46).
IMPORTANT: If you registered your domestic partnership in Wisconsin or any other state, you are still required to establish either a Chapter 40 or UW System domestic partnership prior to enrolling your partner in any employee benefits.
To qualify as registered domestic partners under Chapter 770 of Wisconsin State Statute, two individuals must meet all the following criteria:
- Each individual is at least 18 years old and competent to enter into a contract;
- Neither individual is married to, or in a domestic partnership with, another;
- The individuals share a common residence;
- The individuals are not related by blood in any way that would prohibit marriage under Wisconsin law;
- The individuals are members of the same sex; and
- The couple is registered with the Register of Deeds in their county of residence.
Note: To register, domestic partners must: (a) apply for a declaration of domestic partnership to the County Clerk’s Office in the county where they have lived for 30 days prior to the date of application; and (b) file the signed and notarized Declaration in the Register of Deeds Office in the same county.
All the requirements regarding the Domestic Partner registry are outlined in newly created Chapter 770, Wis. Stats. The State of Wisconsin Vital Records Office has also created a Domestic Partner Registry FAQ for additional information.
Family and Medical Leave
Job-protected leave to care for a domestic partner: The Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act (WFMLA) provides up to two weeks of job-protected leave per year to care for a domestic partner and a domestic partner’s parent. There is no provision under federal FMLA to care for a domestic partner. An employee is required to certify the domestic partnership on the Employee Request for Family and/or Medical Leave (UWS-80) form before taking a WFMLA-covered leave to care for a domestic partner. The employee is not required to establish a Chapter 40 or UWS domestic partnership prior to taking a WFMLA-covered leave. For detailed information about WFMLA domestic partner rights, see the summary of changes document.
Job-protected leave to care for a domestic partner’s child with a serious health condition and/or to bond with a domestic partner’s child after birth/placement for adoption: The Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year to care for a domestic partner’s child, provided that the employee stands in loco parentis to the child. An employee is considered to stand in loco parentis to a child if the employee has day-to-day responsibilities relative to his/her partner’s child – no biological or legal relationship to the child is required. An employee is entitled to an FMLA leave to bond with the child following birth or placement for adoption and to care for the child if the child has a serious health condition.
UW System Administration decided to include the in loco parentis relationship in the administration of WFMLA for UW System employees, so employees are able to take up to two weeks of WFMLA-covered leave to care for a domestic partner’s child with a serious health condition and take up to six weeks of WFMLA-covered leave to bond with the child within 16 weeks of birth or adoption. If an employee is eligible to take a leave under both FMLA and WFMLA, the leaves run concurrently.
All types of paid leave, including sick leave, can be used during a WFMLA-covered leave. All accrued leave, except sick leave, may be used during a FMLA-covered leave unless the reason for the FMLA leave qualifies as a reason to use sick leave.
Termination of a Domestic Partnership
Please see the document Process for Terminating a Domestic Partnership for Benefit Purposes (UWS-48) for information about how to end a domestic partnership and remove a domestic partner from benefit plans.
- ETF Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (ET-2371) - use to create a Chapter 40 domestic partnership
- ETF Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership (ET-2372) - use to end a Chapter 40 domestic partnership
- UW System Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (UWS-50) - use to create a UWS domestic partnership (do not use if Chapter 40 domestic partnership already established)
- UW System Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership (UWS-51) - use to end a UWS domestic partnership (do not use if trying to end a Chapter 40 domestic partnership)
Resources for More Information
- ETF's Domestic Partner Benefits Website
- Chapter 40 of state statute determines who is eligible for employee-sponsored benefits of state employees. Section 40.02 of statutes were amended to include domestic partners. Chapter 770 was added to state statute in order to define domestic partnerships and create a domestic partner registry.
- Fair Wisconsin's Domestic Partner Reference Guide
- UWS Domestic Partner Benefits Employer Resources Page
2009 Wisconsin Act 28 (state budget bill) expanded the rights of people in both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnerships. This expansion of rights includes eligibility for employer-sponsored benefits.
This document was last revised on February 4, 2013