Section of Taxation Publications
  VOL. 54
NO. 2
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 Note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the article as published in The Tax Lawyer. Author citations have been omitted for brevity. Tax Section members may read the article in its entirety in Adobe Acrobat format.
 Tying the Knot: The Tax Consequences of Marriage
Angela V. Langlotz*

* Associate, Jensen Draudt, LLP, Portland, Oregon; The Evergreen State College, B.S., 1996; Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College, J.D., 1999.

Much has been written about the marriage penalty. The marriage penalty refers to the extra amount of income tax that a couple pays because their tax bill as a married couple is more than the combined amount they would have paid as single persons. This article highlights some of the economic deterrents to marriage in the Code and offers some ideas for variously situated couples to consider when contemplating marriage.

Today’s variety of family living situations has not been fully addressed by the Code. Increasingly, families do not fit neatly into the husband, wife, and children model of marriage and family around which the Code originally was constructed. The spectrum of American family life now includes a much greater variety of household living situations, such as the cohabiting heterosexual couple, the gay or lesbian couple, the couple that marries later in life after divorce or the death of a spouse, the single parent with children, children supporting elderly parents, and other nontraditional families. The current tax regime, which focuses on the traditional nuclear family, often penalizes these sorts of nontraditional families. This article explores the several tax-related effects of marriage as they relate to couples in various situations, and discusses the pertinent factors couples contemplating marriage should consider.


Published by
Section of Taxation, American Bar Association
With the Assistance of
Georgetown University Law Center


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