Saturday, November 4, 2017
Our tax system is a relic of 1948, when the system of joint filing for married couples began. It benefits an ideal of the family that was rarer than we think even back then: the (straight) breadwinner-homemaker nuclear married family. A 1947 study on the congressional record predicted that “only about one in ten families would benefit from joint filing.” Researchers suggest Congress agreed to joint filing less out of a desire to save couples money and more because, “After World War II, Congress wanted women to relinquish their jobs so those jobs could be filled by soldiers returning home.” Unlike in 1948 when this system was created, there is now nearly double the number of dual-income to single-earner marriages.
For most economists, the marriage penalty describes the effect of joint filing on low-income couples who get bumped into a higher tax bracket and lose important low-income benefits (this is also true but less devastating for high-income and equal-earning couples). But married women up and down the income ladder are unknowingly dealing with yet another tax specter when they get married: secondary earner bias.
Read more here.