Revisiting a History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 13 (Wrapup Post)

Image courtesy of

Back in 2014 and into 2015, I posted a multi-part series of posts about the history of marriage in the tax code. In 2016 I was asked to condense that series into a CPE presentation. Here are excerpts from that presentation. This series of posts will cover a lot of the same ground as was covered three years ago, but hopefully with a little bit fresher perspective.


Part 12 was the last official piece of this series. The 12 parts were scattered over a series of months dating back to last summer. This 13th post pulls together all 12 parts in one place, with links below:

  • Part 1: I call this one “In the Beginning.” Part 1 introduces the basic concepts of what this series is about, dating back to the beginning of the tax code in 1913.
  • Part 2: This part goes into more detail about what taxes were like in 1913.
  • Part 3: This part dives into the changes to tax law that took effect in 1917, changes that would lay the foundation for filing statuses to appear more than 30 years later.
  • Part 4: This part continues the discussion of the tax changes of 1917, and also explores why so many tax returns were filed jointly.
  • Part 5: This part explores community property laws and how married couples living in community property states could take advantage of a loophole not available to married couples in common-law states.
  • Part 6: This part delves looks at court cases in the 1920s involving community property law and taxation, culminating with the landmark Poe v. Seaborn case of 1930.
  • Part 7: This part looks at the aftermath of Poe v. Seaborn, leading up to the introduction of filing statuses in 1948.
  • Part 8: Finally in 1948, Congress introduced filing statuses into the tax code. This part goes into more detail about that.
  • Part 9: The tax reform in 1948 created a new set of inequalities … this time between married and unmarried taxpayers. Congress’s attempts at fixing this inequality led to another problem … the marriage penalty.
  • Part 10: This part goes into examples of the marriage penalty using the tax brackets of the 1970s through the late ’80s.
  • Part 11: This part covers how the Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced the marriage penalty.
  • Part 12: This part concludes by discussing other aspects of the “marriage penalty” beyond just the tax brackets. Issues such as tax credits and various deductions.