Proposals to end "Marriage Penalties" in tax laws
and Social Security
Introduction and Links
Part of the Divorce
Reform Page, sponsored by Americans for Divorce
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LINKS: (Legislation, Opinion and News)
[Note: This introduction is from before Congress passed the phase-out
of the marriage penalty in marginal income tax rates, but I think it is
still a useful introduction to the issue and to the broad range of marriage
penalties that still exist in various forms.]
Lawmakers are considering ways to eliminate the "marriage penalty"
in federal and state tax laws. Many couples, especially when both spouses
work and earn roughly similar amounts, have to pay a lot more in income
taxes than they would if they had not married. The burden on them and the
resulting incentives are very real -- even though couples suffering a marriage
penalty under the federal tax code are reportedly slightly outnumbered by
those who get a marriage "bonus." (This statistic, however, does
not even count people who remain unmarried because of marriage penalties!
Other things to remember about the "marriage bonus" concept is
that it only occurs in one of the areas where marriage penalties
occur -- the federal income tax rate structure -- so it is often cancelled
out by other marriage penalties. Also, a "bonus" compared to what?
The "bonus" is not necessarily as effective or socially distorting
an incentive as the penalty. It is unlikely to induce marriage, especially
as it usually does not occur at the beginning of a marriage when both spouses
work full time.)
There are also marriage penalties in the earned income tax credit, in many
different tax deductions, and in social security benefits -- which are the
primary reason why many older people live together who would otherwise get
married. The cumulative effect is: 1) to increase the number of couples
who do not marry because they cannot afford to, and 2) to encourage divorce
lawyers to get their clients divorced as fast as possible and to discourage
reconciliation attempts. Reconciliation attempts that fail can delay the
divorce for an additional year, because of the way the waiting period provisions
in the current divorce laws are written.
Americans for Divorce Reform supports a variety of federal and state legislation
that would correct the marriage penalty. Changes in the tax code should
aim for simplicity and rough fairness, and should not go so far to help
marriage penalty victims that they increase the taxes of families with one
primary breadwinner. However, insisting on perfect fairness would only mean
that nothing can ever get done. Also, we must realize that reducing some
people's taxes does not somehow penalize everyone else -- and taking less
money from people is not the same thing as giving them something. Taxation
is not a zero-sum game that assumes everyone's entire income belongs to
the government in the first place. We are asking governments to stop burdening
and marginalizing marriage, not to subsidize it.
FEDERAL MARRIAGE PENALTY REPEAL -- RILEY-SALMON BILL
State Legislation to Correct Marriage Penalties
Model Act to Reduce
Divorce, Reduce Role of Fault and Effect on Children (includes
section on marriage penalties)
Status of State Tax Marriage Penalties as of 2002
Latest from www.humaneventsonline.com April 2, 2001:
"The House voted last Thursday to adopt the Republican plan for
alleviating the marriage penalty for all couples and eliminating
it for those in the lower brackets. Under the bill that passed 282 to 144,
the standard deduction and the top of the 15% bracket for
married couples would be twice those for singles. Last year, the bill received
61 votes in the Senate, and this year it should have at least 56 votes (49
Republicans and 7 Democrats). It may come before the Senate only as part
of a larger tax break bill, however."
**Attention, Users: Dead Links Aren't Really Dead
to provide economic, social incentives to preserve family
Penalty' Revision Has Bipartisan Support -- Washington Post March 27,
GOP to press again for end to marriage tax penalty
THE IMPACT OF THE MARRIAGE PENALTY from
NCPA DAILY POLICY DIGEST
Various proposals to fix the marriage penalty
"Call for Family Supportive Tax Reform" by a bipartisan group
of prominent family scholars and advocates, coordinated by the Institute
for American Values.
about "Call for Family Supportive Tax Reform"
"The Tax Code:
A Marriage Menace" by Gary Palmer. Criticizes marriage
penalties in the tax code, in the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in the primarily
Republican 1997 tax bill.
is there a federal ''sin tax'' on marriage?" -- By Mike McManus
"Wedlock Is Taxing: I do . . . till dual-salary
federal tax-code disparities do us punish" (Points out myriad
marriage penalties in the tax code and in social security, despite the fact
that more people get a "marriage bonus" than get a "penalty"
from the standard deduction and the progressive rate table.)
J. Mitchell, "How To Fix The Marriage Penalty In The Tax Code,"
Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1250, 2/8/99
Penalty Information from the National Center For Policy Analysis
the Marriage Penalty Increase Divorce? Perhaps Surprisingly, the Answer
is Yes" - By John Crouch
Solution to Everything: The Case for Family-Friendly Tax Cut" by
Allan C. Carlson and David Blankenhorn -- Weekly Standard, 12/14/98
Wedlock" by Congressman David McIntosh, Weekly Standard 12/1/97
and Taxes: The Case for Family-Friendly Taxation" by Allan C. Carlson
and David Blankenhorn.-- Weekly Standard 2/9/98
Women for America position on Marriage Penalties
The Other Marriage Penalty:
A New Proposal to Eliminate the Marriage Penalty for Low-Income Americans
As the benefits of marriage have become increasingly clear in recent years,
the U.S. government has moved to promote and strengthen the institution,
particularly among fragile families and low-income Americans. Yet, there
remains a serious structural disincentive to marry for many poor Americans.
The U.S. tax and transfer (welfare) systems frequently impose substantial
financial penalties on low-income couples who choose to marry - in some
cases amounting to family income losses of 20 percent or more.
This brief provides background information about the history of government
tax policy regarding marriage and then discusses how current policy
discourages low-income couples from marrying and actually penalizes them
doing so. It proposes a new, straightforward solution to eliminate the
marriage penalty for struggling families: Give low-income couples a
refundable tax credit for the exact amount of their marriage penalty. There
is already a technology to support such a reform. Released earlier this
by the Urban Institute and the Administration for Children and Families,
"Marriage Calculator" is an easy-to-use software program that
a low-income couple's penalty. In many cases, the brief argues, surplus
welfare funds could be used to help provide marriage penalty relief.
Available for download at:
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Originally posted and maintained by Americans
for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at
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