Congratulations to Gay Americans Who Are Now Eligible for the Tax Code’s Marriage Penalty

Daniel J. Mitchell
Posted: Jun 27, 2013 12:01 AM

I haven’t written about gay marriage for the simple reason that I don’t think the state should have any role in marriage. That includes President Bush’s wasteful pro-marriage initiative.

That being said, I have one warning to my gay friends. You better look before you leap.

The internal revenue code punishes two-earner couples who are married. Here’s a succinct explanation from Bloomberg.

On the revenue side, the CBO estimated that gay marriage in all 50 states would increase tax receipts by about $400 million a year if the George W. Bush tax cuts were extended and by about $700 million a year if they were not. Because those tax cuts ended up being mostly extended, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but closer to $400 million. The added revenue comes from the “marriage penalty”: Two-earner married couples where each spouse has a similar income tend to be taxed more heavily than they would be if both partners were single. Other couples get a “marriage bonus,” generally when the spouses’ incomes are very unequal, but the marriage penalty effect is more important.

But you don’t have to believe me, or the reporters at Bloomberg. Here’s the tax computation worksheet for single taxpayers and married taxpayers from theIRS’s 1040 instruction manual (now more than 200-pages long!).

Marriage Penalty

Fortunately, there’s a solution to this inequity. I invite Americans of all sexual preferences to defend marriage by embracing the flat tax, which – in addition to all the other good things it does – gets rid of the marriage penalty.