WASHINGTON — Marriage can be wonderful, but could it also cost you come tax time? That's exactly what one WUSA9 viewer wants to know.
The viewer is asking about the benefits of tying the knot and we took a closer look to break down any concerns. The question likely is based on headlines coming from a research study from the Tax Policy Institute.
Do Black couples pay a higher penalty on their taxes for getting than white couples?
Yes, when a Black couple gets married, they are more likely to pay more in taxes or receive less of a tax benefit than white couples compared to before marriage.
WHAT WE FOUND
If two people who make the same amount of money get married their combined income doubles, potentially jumping into the next tax bracket.
"People when they marry might be combining resources," Holtzblatt said. "And so they have what we call a higher ability to pay."
But if a person marries someone who makes a lot less money or none at all that spouse’s higher income is now seen as that of two people and they may pay less in taxes.
"The most extreme example would be the case of a woman who makes a lot of money, marries a man who is an unsuccessful artist, and they get married. And she was paying a high tax before they married," Holtzblatt said. "But now when her income is combined with his zero earnings, it brings them down. And that's when you get a bonus from getting married. The opposite is true when you have two people with equal incomes who marry and that pushes them further up the tax bracket."
That first scenario more typically applies to Black couples. According to the research, Black couples were found to be more likely to be two people who both work and make more equal pay while white couples are more likely to include one spouse who stays home or makes a lot less money.
However, of all the boxes to check on a tax form race isn’t one of them. Even as research finds: different races are impacted by taxes differently.
Holtzblatt said tax policy isn't and shouldn't be based on race, but what's missing in the discussion is racial equity. Researchers say some ideas that could fix this might actually mean taxes are more burdensome on people who make less money which would present new issues.