Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ryznar: The Tax Disincentives for Married Women

Margaret Ryznar (Law Clerk to Myron H. Bright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit) has posted To Work, or Not to Work? The Immortal Tax Disincentives for Married Women, 13 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. ___ (2009), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Among the most fundamental barriers to the aggressive participation of many married women in the work force are the disincentives for secondary income earners embedded in the federal tax code. Specifically, the current code contains a marriage penalty, which is aggravated by the progressive nature of taxation and any potential increases in income taxation. Meanwhile, child care expenses, a prerequisite for entry to the labor market, are treated inadequately. Although these immortal problems persist despite political pushes for relief, new attention to this topic is warranted given the Obama Administration’s pledge for tax law reform. If the principle to be prioritized is that married women should not face tax disincentives to pursue paid work, then the tax code must finally deal with these issues effectively.

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Any income tax will encourage unemployment and underemployment to some extent. Progressive tax systems encourage non-earning to a different extent for different classes of taxpayers. A tax code that is fair from all perspectives to married and unmarried taxpayers is provably impossible to construct. I find it hard to get too worked up about this particular aspect of unfairness. Yes, it slams 2-earner professional couples who get married. For those people, marriage is a luxury good. However marriage provides some nice inheritance and gift tax benefits, so it's not all bad news.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Sep 11, 2009 9:59:21 PM