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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Law, Society & Taxation Panel #2: Gender, Families, and Sexuality in Tax Law

Today's second Law, Society, and Taxation panel at the Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Denver is on Gender, Families, and Sexuality in Tax Law:

How to treat incomes that are shared within households, how to account for the biological differences between women and men, and the treatment of unpaid work are all timeless issues in tax and family law. In this panel, scholars will discuss various problems that arise in the tax system when issues of gender, family, and sexuality become salient.

Meredith R. Conway (Suffolk) (Chair/Discussant)

This paper uses the history of nationalized income-splitting to highlight the cost of individual tax filing. While lessening the psychological and economic impact of family taxation on wives as secondary earners, will likely increase tax avoidance among the wealthy which imposes a real cost on our progressive income tax system.

Sexual intercourse makes women pregnant, and pregnancy makes women vulnerable. Being pregnant radically alters a woman’s body, mind, and public identity. It puts her, as the old euphemism goes, in a “delicate condition.” In the best case, where the pregnancy is wanted by both parents and it progresses normally, the discomforts and inconveniences it typically entails—nausea, back pain, memory loss, swollen feet, dietary restrictions, lost wages, and the inability to travel—are not insignificant. In the worst case, pregnancy can be debilitating, even life threatening. The same is true of a miscarriage—it can cause a woman to bleed and cramp for several days, and it can kill. Where a pregnancy is unintended and a woman chooses to abort, the difficulties she faces also range in severity. Under any scenario, being pregnant is no walk in the park. Some men recognize this reality and take care of the women they impregnate. Others do not, and the law gives them a free pass. Thus, society reinforces a fundamental gender inequality: pregnancy is a woman’s problem. The biological inequality between men and women’s reproductive burdens cannot be changed, but the law can mitigate its harmful effects. These effects extend to men as well as women because the asymmetry in the risks associated with sex creates a fundamental power imbalance, an imbalance that sows tension and mistrust in relations between heterosexual lovers at both conscious and unconscious levels. This asymmetry in risk also translates into asymmetrical incentives to prevent an unwanted pregnancy where partners assume that the woman would abort. This Article argues that unless a man has been raped or deceived, the law should require him to participate in the price of pleasure by making a monetary contribution to the woman he impregnates.

    This paper will analyze the extent to which unpaid work is valued, or should be valued, by the paid marketplace. It also will address the impact of the commodification debate on assumptions in law underpinning the taxation of women.

My paper will exam the income tax rules of Singapore, Sweden and the States and compare the "state support" system of Sweden to the "personal responsibility" structure in the States to the "class based" structure in Singapore. The paper will particularly focus on working mothers and how that impacts their ability to compete in the market.

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