The Atlantic, Tax the Patriarchy:
The Rube Goldberg mess of the United States tax code picks winners and losers as it raises trillions of dollars for the federal government. It advantages unearned income over earned income. It advantages big, mortgaged homes over little, rented apartments. It advantages the richest of the rich over the merely rich. And, in many cases, it advantages men over women.
That last claim is the contention of three new reports produced by the National Women’s Law Center and several other research and advocacy groups. They analyze the tax code through the lens of gender and conclude that many provisions reflect, amplify, and entrench long-standing disparities between men and women.
But it need not be so. The tax code has profound power to close the gender wage-and-wealth gap, as well as to support equality in the workplace and help families thrive at home. As the country debates taxing billionaires out of existence, it might consider taxing the patriarchy out of existence, too.
National Women's Law Center, Tax Justice Is Gender Justice: Advancing Gender and Racial Equity by
Harnessing the Power of the U.S. Tax Code:
The tax code sets the rules that shape our economy, reflecting and perpetuating notions of who and what our society values. It’s an opportunity to fight inequality. But today’s tax code contains outdated and often biased assumptions about family structures, marriage, participation in the paid workforce, and more that work together to perpetuate structural barriers against women, families with low incomes, and people of color. The tax code can be a barrier for realizing gender justice – but it can also be a tool. It’s time we take advantage.
Ariel Jurow Kleiman (San Diego), Amy Matsui (National Women’s Law Center) & Estelle Mitchell (National Women’s Law Center), The Faulty Foundations of the Tax Code: Gender and Racial Bias in Our Tax Law:
This report ... examines the outdated assumptions and gender and racial biases embedded in the U.S. tax code. It highlights tax code provisions that reflect and exacerbate gender disparities, with particular attention to those that disadvantage women with low incomes, women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and immigrants.
- Examined policies include the joint filing of spousal income, treatment of informal caregiving, incentives for business formation and wealth accumulation, and IRS enforcement patterns.
- Although perhaps facially neutral, many of these policies likely provide disproportionate benefit to men, may heighten pressure for women to leave the formal labor market, and reflect biased assumptions about gender, race, and family structure.
- This report offers recommendations for better data and analysis so that policymakers, advocates, and the public can fully understand the impact of the current tax code and proposed tax policies.
Katy Milani (Roosevelt Institute), Melissa Boteach (National Women’s Law Center), Steph Sterling, (Roosevelt Institute) & Sarah Hassmer (National Women’s Law Center), Reckoning With the Hidden Rules of Gender in the Tax Code: How Low Taxes on Corporations and the Wealthy Impact Women’s Economic Opportunity and Security:
This report ... discusses how low taxes for the wealthy and corporations have played a role in enabling – and in some cases encouraging – those with the highest incomes and the most capital to accumulate outsized wealth and power in our economy. Centuries of discrimination and subjugation of women and people of color interact today with widening income inequality, such that white, non-Hispanic men are disproportionately represented among the wealthiest households, while labor and economic contributions from women of color are consistently undervalued. An agenda to advance racial and gender justice must reckon with provisions in our tax code perpetuate and enable these inequities.
- This report describes several substantial ways that low taxes for the wealthy have failed to deliver on the promise of widespread prosperity, have failed low-income women and families, and have contributed to the compounding economic effects of gender inequality.
- It discusses how tax policies, including the ongoing erosion of taxes on intergenerational wealth transfers, the code’s preferential treatment of capital over income, the reduction of effective rates on the highest incomes, treatment of pass-through income, and the tax code’s preferential treatment of debt, negatively impact low-income women and their families.
- The report then offers a set of reforms to better leverage the tax code to advance gender and racial equity.
Melissa Boteach (National Women’s Law Center), Amy Matsui (National Women’s Law Center), Indivar Dutta-Gupta (Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality), Funke Aderonmu (Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality), Kali Grant, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality) & Rachel Black (Jain Family Institute), A Tax Code for the Rest of Us: A Framework & Recommendations for Advancing Gender & Racial Equity Through Tax Credits:
This report ... examines how, while the U.S. income tax system is progressive overall, many aspects of the tax code reward wealth-building by the already wealthy and exclude low- and moderate-income families. Given the historical discrimination and ongoing structural barriers that have locked women and people of color out of economic opportunity, such tax provisions not only exacerbate economic inequality, but also amplify gender and racial disparities.
- Notable exceptions include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which boost low- and moderate-income families’ economic security and increase gender and racial equity.
- This report considers the question: how can our tax code build on the success of the EITC and CTC to better dismantle structural barriers that impede economic security and wealth-building for women and people of color?
- It ultimately proposes a framework to help policymakers, advocates, and the public evaluate when and how refundable tax credits can advance equity, economic mobility, and opportunity for all.