TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, September 24, 2012

Microeconomic Behavioral Responses to the Marriage Penalty

Jason J. Fichtner & Jacob M. Feldman (both of George Mason University, Mercatus Center), Taxing Marriage: Microeconomic Behavioral Responses to the Marriage Penalty and Reforms for the 21st Century:

Politicians often stress that marriage is a key institution that promotes family values. However, many aspects of the federal tax code do not promote marriage and may in fact provide disincentives and penalize marriage. As an alternative to marriage, cohabitation is a common choice for low-income couples facing significant fiscal penalization from the joint income filing requirement, particularly when qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In part because of the additional tax liability associated with joint tax filing, many middle-income and upper-income people are forgoing marriage as well. As more women enter the labor force and female wages rise, the marriage penalty becomes increasingly important to horizontal tax equity concerns and for economic growth. Today, the United States is one of only seven Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to employ joint taxation for married couples.

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When civil unions were being discussed in Vermont, it was determined that there are some 1000 benefits that accrue to marriage that singles, whether in a civil union or not, do not enjoy.

I don't get it: if two people don't want to suffer a marriage penalty, they can get married in a religious ceremony without applying for a marriage certificate, so as to stay single before the law.

Why are they complaining? I suppose they want to enjoy the 999 benefits of marriage without the one penalty? What would the country look like if civil marriage were no longer recognized?

Posted by: Jimbino | Sep 24, 2012 7:16:11 PM