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How Marriage Penalties Change Under the 2001 Tax Bill

Adam Carasso, C. Eugene Steuerle

Published: May 30, 2002
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The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) generally reduces marriage penalties for head of household filers marrying single filers, with combined incomes up to $80,000. The law's relevant marriage penalty provisions in order of effect are (1) the refundable, doubled child credit; (2) the expanded EITC for married couples; (3) the 10 percent tax bracket; (4) the standard deduction for married couples; (5) the expanded 15 percent tax bracket for married couples; and (6) the 25 percent tax bracket. The enhanced child credit does more to relieve marriage penalties than provisions 3, 4, and 5 combined, which are the provisions officially designated for marriage penalty relief in the law. This brief examines the differential effect each provision has on marriage penalty relief for a range of hypothetical couples and makes suggestions for future policy.