In the U.S., April 15 is tax day. I don’t want to hear any whining about the supposed marriage penalty. It doesn’t exist.
That’s what I discovered when I was researching Singled Out. (I also wrote about it here). To be sure, I have no expertise on taxes. So I felt reassured that I got it right when attorney Lily Kahng, who served "three years as attorney advisor in the Office of Tax Legislative Counsel in the U. S. Department of the Treasury," made the same case in a more sophisticated way in a law review article. If you still think there’s a marriage penalty, read that article, or my briefer discussion of it, to see how you’ve been misled.
The singles penalty in income taxes, though, is just the beginning of the ways in which single people pay extra simply for being single. In fact, if you are single, every day is tax day.
Some of the stunning details of the high price of single life were unmasked by Onely’s Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell in their article in the Atlantic (discussed here and here). Singled Out (especially the chapter on the myth of family values: “Let’s give all the perks, benefits, gifts, and cash to couples and call it family values”) puts it all in context. The Singlism book offers plenty of examples and analyses from many domains. It is time to put to rest the myth of the single people who are not contributing their fair share.
Here are just a few of the ways in which every day is tax day when you are single:
[Some details: Your Social Security benefits go back into the system when you die while your married coworker’s go to a surviving spouse, or a whole array of ex’s if your coworker’s previous marriages lasted long enough to count. While you are living, no one can leave their Social Security benefits to you. Meanwhile, married people of a certain age can draw some from a spouse’s benefits while the spouse is alive, and then when the spouse dies, they are awarded with even more.]
2. When you are single and paying into an IRA, every day is the day when your contributions to your IRA account will be burdened by penalties from which married people are exempt.
[Some details: IRAs are better in some ways than Social Security with regard to treatment of single people, but there are still some special penalties aimed solely at single savers.]
3. When you are single, every day is the day when it costs more to stay healthy.
[Some details: The costs of health spending are much higher for single people than for married couples.]
4. Every day, the costs of housing are higher for singles than for married people.
[Some details: This is not just a matter of “economies of scale” (the money you save by sharing a place and splitting the costs of rent or mortgage and utilities and all the rest). There is also housing discrimination against single people.]
5. Every day, the income earned by single people is taxed more than the income of married people.
[Some details: There is a singles penalty in income taxes, not a marriage penalty. (See above for the relevant links and references.)]
6. If you are a single man, every day is the day when you are likely being paid less for the same work, at the same level of seniority and expertise, as your married coworkers.
[Some details: Research, including a study of pairs of identical twins in which one is married and the other single, suggest that married men get paid about about 26% more than single men.]
7. If you are single, every day is the day that you do not qualify for the special discounts for couples or families in insurance, travel, restaurant deals, health club memberships, dues for professional associations, and so much more.
[Some details: Every time couples or families pay less per person for any goods or services than single people do, that’s a singles penalty. As they are stuck paying full price, the single people are subsidizing the couples and families. Check out this collection of unfair business practices.]
8. If you are single, every wedding and shower gift that you give is a subsidy to a married couple who probably already has two of everything, including salaries.
The costs of being single are not just financial:
9. Every day that employers and coworkers expect single people to take the least desirable work assignments or travel schedules or vacation times, or to work more hours for the same pay, singles are paying a price for their jobs that married people are not.
10. Every day that political leaders and candidates vow to fight for “working families” but not for workers, and every time they promote their concern for married couples and families without taking comparable action on behalf of single people, they are turning their backs on about half of their constituents. Singles are getting less for their votes, their taxes, and their fees than married people are.
11. Every day that journalists make claims about the supposedly-positive implications of getting married that are not, and simply cannot, be supported by the evidence, is a day when the cost of single life is compounded by shoddy practices. It is a day when the people who are tasked with finding and publishing the truth are instead perpetuating myths and ideologies.
12. Every day that social science contributes more to our understanding of marriage than to single life, and – worse – condones misinformation that stigmatizes single people, is a day that singles are suffering biased and unfair treatment by the very people who are supposed to be dedicated to impartiality and truthfulness.
13. Every day, single people are at risk of receiving lower quality health care than people who are married. Medical professionals are the source of this information.
14. Every day that college students peruse the course catalog and find all sorts of offerings about marriage and family but nothing about single life, and every time they open a book and get treated to a shameless show of singlism and matrimania, they are experiencing a demeaning and gratuitous cost of single life.
15. Every day that a book, movie, or TV show serves up still another matrimaniacal or singlist plot line is a day when singles pay the “bashed-by-the-media” tax. When the two romantic characters face obstacles but come together by the end, there is also a stupefying-boredom tax. Everyone pays that one, though.
16. Every day that a stunningly successful single person is asked why they are not married, or described as having a lesser life, is a day when we have all suffered the narrow-minded and ideologically-blinkered tax.
17. Every day that single people are invited to lunch instead of dinner, to weekday events instead of weekend events, to children’s birthday parties but not the theater or movies, and every day that single guests are offered the couch in the living room while married guests are given a bedroom with a door that shuts, single people are paying the “we-think-you-are-children” tax.
18. Every day that a friend or family member heads down the path of serious coupledom or gets married and then excludes the single person who was once an important person in their social circle, single people are paying the “excluded-from-the-Married-Couples-Club” tax.
19. Every day that a coupled person tries to “fix up” single people, without any indication that the single people consider themselves in need of fixing, single people are getting assessed with a presumptuousness tax. It’s obnoxious.
There is no end to a list like this. But there can be. Single people have had enough and we’re not going to take it anymore.
Get a CLUE – Singles Activism is Revving Up and We Want You to Join Us!
Single people have not engaged in collective advocacy or action in the same way that other groups have. Racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, and other isms have all motivated people to come together to create change. I have discussed some of the possible reasons for that in “Where’s our singles movement?”
Maybe that is finally changing. Meet CLUE, “The Communication League for Unmarried Equality.” The organizers – Cindy Butler of Unmarried Equality, Lisa A. and Christina Campbell of Onely, Eleanore Wells of The Spinsterlicious Life, and I (my website is BellaDePaulo.com) – are bringing together bloggers and others who want to take on the misperceptions and unfair treatment of singles. On select days, everyone interested in participating will address the topic of the day in their own way.
April 15, for obvious reasons, is the launch day of the first of our efforts to raise awareness and ultimately effect change. This post is one of my contributions to that event. Soon after tax day, I will post links to all of the bloggers who have participated in this first get-a-CLUE singles blogfest. I think others will be posting all of the links, too.
For this event, we are using these hastags:
If you like what we are doing, please light up the social media space.
Would you like to join our list of bloggers? If so, please get in touch with me or one of the other CLUE organizers. If you are not a blogger, but would like to get early alerts about each blogfest, again, contact me or one of the others. We would love to have as many voices as possible as well as a growing number of people spreading the word!
[Note: (1)Thanks to Cindy Butler, Christina Campbell, Lisa A., and Eleanore Wells for all of their work on CLUE. (2) My latest elsewhere is also relevant to the theme of the costs of single life: “Nearing retirement and nearly broke? Economic discrimination against singles adds up.”]