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Tax Man Wants You to Choose Between Marriage and Career – Part 1

February 3, 2010 | NeW Staff

I came across a study done by Edward J. McCaffery for the National Center for Policy Analysis analyzing “Women and Taxes”. McCaffery assesses the current cultural climate and concludes that some tax policies affecting women are out-of-date and are having particularly negative affects.

How has the way women participate in the economy changed?  McCaffery explains,

“Today 70 percent of all married women work for wages … yet the tax laws are biased toward single-earner households in which only one spouse works and is biased against two-earner households.”


The code is set up so that when a woman enters the labor market, her earnings are automatically taxed according to her husband’s current tax bracket, rather than beginning at the lowest bracket. The report continues,

“Moreover, even if her husband has paid the maximum Social Security tax, the wife who works must begin paying from the first dollar she earns.”


This phenomenon has been dubbed the “marriage penalty” and affects the top and bottom levels of income.  What are these affects?

“If you are middle- to upper-income and married, the incentive is to not work. If you are low-income and working, the incentive is to not marry.”


Keep an eye out for Part 2, dealing with Social Security!

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