Why Mandatory Individual Income Tax Returns Are Preferable to the Current Joint Filing System

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I buy into the usual reasons why mandatory individual filing is preferable to the current system that bestows benefits on only certain kinds of families:

(i) “fairness” in the sense of treating equals equally, both in terms of different family forms (i.e., single, married, unmarried, straight, gay) and single-earner versus dual earner families (note that to the extent one is offended by the result of taxing the $200,000, single-earner couple more than the $200,000, dual-earner couple we can give subsidies such as the “stay-at-home spouse tax credit” or “we think mama shouldn’t work tax credit,” but we should do it openly and in a transparent fashion rather than hide it in the rates);

(ii) explicitly recognizing the economic value of home production (in the sense that single-earner couples might shriek loudly about paying higher taxes than equal income dual-earner couples, but the response is “your home production has a market value that goes untaxed so be quiet before we tax your imputed income”);

(iii) mitigating secondary-earner biases that restrict choice and individual freedom, entrench power in the hands of the earner or primary earner, and, relatively, bestow bonuses on single-earner families that already enjoy significant imputed income;

(iv) “fairness” in the sense of moving from a system that provides tax benefits (both during life and at death) for those with a marriage certificate but requires those without a marriage certificate to engage in expensive tax planning to even begin to approximate the benefits of the married cohort; and

(v) provides lucrative work for divorce lawyers in the first few months of every year.

-Dennis J. Ventry, Jr.

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