01/12/2012 02:49 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Ernst & Young, Named 'Employer Of The Year' By Gay Advocacy Group Stonewall, Provides Unique LGBT Tax Reimbursement

International accountancy firm Ernst & Young is quickly living up to its new title as the world's "most gay-friendly employer" by offering its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees reimbursement for the additional federal and state taxes incurred for their partner's benefits.

As Accounting Today is noting, the tax equalization (or "gross-up") became effective Jan. 1, 2012. The first of the so-called "Big Four" accounting firms to offer the perk, Ernst & Young began offering domestic partner benefits to its LGBT employees in 2002.

"Ernst & Young strives to promote an equitable work culture in every way possible," Karyn Twaronite, Americas Inclusiveness Officer, Ernst & Young LLP, said in a statement. "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."

As most states do not formally recognize same-sex partnerships, LGBT couples face an average of $1,500 in additional taxes each year when their partners are covered under their health insurance. Married heterosexual couples are exempt from such taxes.

The firm now joins a small, but growing, number of companies offering such benefits to its LGBT employees. GayToday cites statistics provided by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which found that only 30 for-profit employees provided similar reimbursements. In December, both Columbia and Yale University announced they would similarly begin covering those costs for their employees on Jan. 1, The New York Times reported.

Ernst & Young officials also received additional praise this week from U.K.-based LGBT advocacy group Stonewall, which named the firm "Employer of their Year" in the annual Workplace Equality Index, due in part to their sponsorship of National Student Pride and its discussion with clients about sexual orientation as a workplace issue, according to Accountancy Age.

"Being named the 2012 Employer of the Year is an achievement that we're very proud of," Harry Gaskell, Head of U.K./Ireland Advisory and the U.K./Ireland Diversity and Inclusiveness Partner Sponsor for Ernst & Young, told the publication. "I'm really happy with the great progress the firm has made since it first entered the Workplace Equality Index in 2005 and look forward to continuing to champion diversity and inclusiveness in 2012."