August 24 2004
Carrie L. Lukas
Feminist organizations like the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation regularly oppose reductions in marginal income tax rates. Their rhetoric implies that there is no tax too high for women to bear, and women should prefer government to spend money on their behalf rather than have individuals control their own resources.
In reality, women have much to gain from reductions in tax rates. High income taxes result in women having fewer resources to spend as they see fit. Taxes also distort women's decision-making processes: high marginal tax rates discourage some women from entering the workforce because they keep so little of what they earn, while forcing other women who would prefer to stay home to get a job to make ends meet.
Not only are women particularly sensitive to changes in tax rates, women also face high marginal tax rates due to the tax code's progressivity and its unfair treatment of married couples.
Women should oppose the feminists' implicit assumption that women are better off when government has more and individuals have less. After all, surrendering resources is tantamount to surrendering independence.
Instead of encouraging the government to take and control women's money, feminists should support changes in tax law that will reduce government's burden on women and free women to make choices based on their own preferences. Women would particularly benefit from reductions in income tax rates, and from reform that gives married couples the option of filing as individuals instead of jointly.
This paper focuses on how income tax rates affect women. It is the first in a series of position papers that will explore the high costs of high taxes for women.
The U.S. tax code is unbelievably complex. There are more than 45,000 pages of federal tax rules. Each year, Americans spend an estimated 6.2 billion hours and $182 billion complying with these tax laws. Economists estimate that for every one dollar raised through federal income taxes, nearly 12 cents is wasted on compliance.
People are fed a great deal of misinformation about taxes. For women, a prime source of misinformation are organizations like the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation. These organizations, which claim to represent women, seem to believe that women should fight all tax cuts and consider any proposal to reduce government's take of our paychecks an assault on women.
What these feminists ignore is that modern women are taxpayers, not just passive consumers of government services. Even women who currently do not work have an interest in tax policy because it affects their spouses' take home pay and the kind of job opportunities that will be available if they choose to join the workforce. This paper provides an overview of why women as taxpayers have a great deal at stake in the tax policy debate. Feminists' rhetoric that women should see any tax cut as a danger to important government programs ignores the real impact that high marginal tax rates have on women's lives and careers.
This paper focuses on the income tax system and includes a section addressing some of the most common misconceptions about taxes. It concludes by offering a pro-woman tax agenda that includes lowering income tax rates, simplifying our tax code, and giving married couples the option of filing separately as individuals.