Strange as it sounds, Congress is responsible for the U.S. Tax Code and its "marriage bonus" or "marriage penalty" make the combined tax tax liability of a married couple lower or higher than their combined tax burden had they not married. The Tax Code also influences decisions about the number of children married couples will have and raise.
According to the Tax Foundation, here's how the Tax Code works:
- The marriage bonus or penalty is the change in a couple's total tax bill as a result of getting married and filing taxes jointly. This scheme targets both high- and low- income couples.Couples with children also face large bonuses and penalties for being married.
- A marriage "bonus"--which can reach 20% of a couple's combined income--normally happens when two individuals with unequal incomes get married. Typically, it's middle-income married couples who receive a marriage bonus. In addition, the more the number of dependent children these couples have, the more the reduction to income tax received.
- A marriage "penalty"--which can reach 12% of a couple's income--normally happens when two individuals with equal incomes get married. Typically, high- and low- income married couples are affected by a marriage penalty.
Got the picture?
The U.S. Tax Code wages war against marriage and family because those bonuses and penalties violate the principle of neutrality. That is, this aspect of the U.S. Tax Code incentivizes and disincentivizes behavior. How? Those in the middle-income bracket receive a bonus if they marry, while those in the high- and low- income brackets get penalized. That's not being treated "equal under the law." This aspect of the U.S. Tax Code discriminates against citizens based solely upon income.
Moreover, those bonuses and penalties incentivize and disincentivize decisions made by married couples about whether and the number of children they will have children as well as whether those married couples will work. How so? The U.S. Tax Code incentivizes middle-income married couples to have children but discourages them from working. At the same time it disincentivizes high- and low- income married couples from having children but incentivizes them to work.
This is called "social engineering" and in this case it's the federal government--Congress--that's the engineer.
A more neutral approach to taxation would be the "flat tax" for and for the purposes of this discussion, let's say 17% for all companies and citizens, married or not. To ensure that lower-income married couples are able to provide for themselves and are incentivized to have children and, if they should desire, to work, let's have a maximum tax threshold--200% of the poverty level calculated annually (or about $50k in combined income)--before the flat tax kicks in. Everyone is treated equally, married or not, with or without children. Every company and citizen pays the same percentage of income in taxes, with citzens in the low-income bracket being incentivized to raise families and to work, should they so desire.
This idea isn't anything new. Steve Forbes has been campaigning for it for decades. However, the argument is typically framed in terms of who benefits the most from the flat tax. What every citizen needs to realize--and especially Catholic citizens who espouse the importance of social justice--is how this particular aspect of the U.S. Tax Code wages war on marriage as the federal government incentivizes/ disincentivizes marrriage as well as having and raising a family. Catholic social justice requires lobbying hard their elected representatives in Washington, DC, to treat all people as equal under the law...and that includes unborn people as well.
Let the discussion begin...
To learn about the marriage bonus and penalty aspect of the U.S. Tax Code, click on the following link:
"Understanding the Marriage Penalty and Marriage Bonus."