The Federal Government’s War on Marriage AKA the Marriage Penalty Tax: Unfair to Individuals and Harmful to Society
Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2013:107-130
40 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2012 Last revised: 6 Feb 2014
Empirical research has shown that public policy such as tax and transfer programs have had a deleterious effect on marital stability. This study analyzes the cost to individuals of various aspects of the marriage penalty tax (MPT) and thereby how it discourages marriage and how it harms both individuals and society at large. Decline of the family, especially married couples, is regarded as one of the critical problems facing American society. Past research indicates that the MPT, due to its negative impact on marital stability and two-parent families, results in major social and economic costs, such as higher rates of children living in poverty, lower education, higher unemployment, more crime, and poorer health. Given its harm, we conclude that the MPT should be eliminated from the tax code. Opponents to repealing the marriage penalty have complained that ‘higher-income’ taxpayers receive disproportionate benefit. However, this research shows that the MPT has an equally negative effect on couples in the lowest income categories, particularly with its impact on the earned income tax credit. Further, regardless of a couple’s income level, the marriage penalty is detrimental to marriage, and thus, to society overall. Tax laws, as part of public policy, should foster, not hamper, two-parent families and their corresponding economic benefits such as improved employment, better public health, and lower crime.
Keywords: marriage penalty tax, public policy, tax law, Internal Revenue Code, family
JEL Classification: A13, D60, D63, I32, I38, J12, J18, K34, M40
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