flexagon: (Default)
[personal profile] flexagon
Welcome to new friends: I made an intro post over in the [community profile] 2017revival community and have picked up some new readers/friends as a result. I'm hoping that some will stick, and offset a bit of the disgruntlement I feel at how quickly LJ has left my life.

Taxes happened this weekend, and brought to light exactly how much more I make right now than my husband (no DW name yet). It got awkward when he didn't want to split the bill evenly, but an hour of calculating "married filing singly" shut up my whining: that is a hellscape made of razor blades, and I would have owed a lot more alone than we do together. So we ended up splitting it proportionally to our income and calling it a day. It's funny... we've had all kinds of different income ratios over the years, and every year we decide something different regarding fairness at tax time. Radical idea: maybe the government should stop caring whether people are married. But that might be unrealistic... there's a lot of economic thinking baked into the current legal idea of "marriage", and one change would probably mean a cascade of changes. The right set of changes isn't obvious and would definitely not be an easy political win for anyone trying to push it.

A quote: From Ursula K Leguin's The Dispossessed, on the topic of deserving things and not deserving things.

“For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.”

Date: 2017-04-18 04:47 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: Sooffocles with me in background (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth

Taxes are a good thing. Their implementation is however evil

Date: 2017-04-18 05:25 pm (UTC)
drwex: (Troll)
From: [personal profile] drwex
We've had a pretty epic struggle with taxes this year, borne mostly by my wife. She makes a whole lot less than I do and we don't sweat much of it. She does so much more work than I do (household, kids, emotional labor, you name it) that any attempt to fair-value that labor would impoverish me instantly.

Thanks for the pointer to the revival community. I enjoyed reading some of the posts there (including yours) but I don't want to join nor does my curmudgeonly self want to try to connect with a bunch of strangers. I'm just going to keep tugging and hoping the LJ users I talked with will all migrate over. I think it's about 85% at this point.

As to why the government cares who is married, it's all about the kids. If you accept that society cannot abandon children, then the question is who will be responsible for children if the parents are not/will not/can not. The answer is usually "the government", in some form. If you accept that, then it follows the government has an interest in avoiding getting into that business, which requires it to know who is married, who parents are, and so on. Back in the day, of course, the two statuses were more closely linked but even today there's a lot of strong linkage between partnership status and child-care responsibilities.

To some degree there's statistical evidence to back up some of these things. Married males are less likely to engage in a variety of undesirable behaviors. And, with the greatest respect to the single parents I know, statistically outcomes for children are improved by multi-adult households.

Date: 2017-04-21 02:00 pm (UTC)
drwex: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drwex
there's a marriage penalty for married couples with comparable incomes

It's my sense that the number of married couples with comparable incomes is vastly outweighed by the number of such couples that have (often widely) disparate incomes. I haven't run numbers in several years - the joy of having an accountant do our taxes - but I trust their judgment that even with my wife running her own business it is still significantly advantageous for us to file jointly. Make of that what you will, I don't claim to have any real data.

it might be time to revisit the total benefits and consider incentivizing pair-bonding in some other way besides a complex tax code

That wraps together a whole lot of issues that are very hard to tease apart. If you agree (as I do) that tax policies exist in part to incentivize more of the things we (popularly, and as the US government) want I think it's always going to be complex. The mortgage interest deduction, for example, is essentially a huge give-away to families that are far from the most needy. However, we accept that home ownership leads to more stable neighborhoods (safer, more prosperous, better for businesses, etc) so it's taken to be in everyone's interest to have higher rates of home ownership. Is that a good idea? I'm not so sure, though I've benefited from it hugely myself.

Then there's the basic need of taxes to bring in revenue and although we continually operate at a deficit we generally agree that's a bad thing (debt is good; deficit is bad). So revenue needs to be raised and we also have something of a consensus that the system should be progressive to some degree. That, too, adds complications not just because you have to have multiple brackets but because you have to have rules about what does and does not count toward a given bracket.

And finally, there's the extremely thorny question of how (other than taxation) the government ought to incentivize behavior. The tools the government has at hand tend to be crude, and punitive. That's good for discouraging unwanted behaviors but less good for incentivizing desired behaviors. I'm currently imagining the IRS reworked as a giant game-theory machine and while it'd make for a good SF story I don't think it's something I'd like to live under. I have enough trouble with the current set of marketing giants (Google, Apple, FB, etc.) treating the world that way.

how about a straight-up tax credit for married folk

Theoretically simple, but the devil is in the details as always.

Date: 2017-04-18 07:03 pm (UTC)
nahele_101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nahele_101
Was the disagreement over money returned, or money that was owed?

Filing jointly typically results in lowered tax burdens, and greater returns...but exceptions obviously exist.

Date: 2017-04-18 09:02 pm (UTC)
coraline: (Default)
From: [personal profile] coraline
yeah, our income disparity means we try to hand-wave in the direction of "extra owed is split proportionally to our incomes" but it's kinda fuzzy.

Date: 2017-04-20 12:01 am (UTC)
motyl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] motyl
Most years we calculate joint tax burden, do a quick shred of our joint filing to estimate filing singly, then make sure our net contributions are the same percentage they would be if you added single filings together. I've gotten it down to an art - about 10 minutes of poking around with H&R block and a spreadsheet.
Last year I just paid all we owed. This year I got cranky thinking I was shorting myself and went back to doing the math. The result was I got to pay all our federal taxes owed *and* give the giant MA refund to my spouse. That's what I get for being stingy :-P

Date: 2017-04-21 07:11 pm (UTC)
motyl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] motyl
At some point we had pretty good bill balance, my health insurance balanced by my husband paying car and maybe house. I suspect rising costs have gotten that out of whack but I care correspondingly less so it's all good. It's always heartening hearing of other couples who don't default combine finances and don't, say, give me fishy looks like I'm planning for divorce or am horribly selfish or something.

I've been following lj (now dw) ~biweekly for ages but mostly lurk. I responded to your spring break post though so not a *total* lurker!

Date: 2017-04-21 09:14 pm (UTC)
nahele_101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nahele_101
That quote is deep, and worth pondering. Thanks for sharing that...


flexagon: (Default)

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