Most people think taxes are boring, but they are wrong. Taxes are social policy! And social policy is cool. That being said, I understand that nobody likes it when they owe the government money, and even getting a refund really just means that you made Uncle Sam an interest free loan all year. And who among us hasn’t wondered, bitterly, where their taxes actually went? Well, the hard truth is a lot of your taxes go towards the Department of Defense and other programs you may more may not agree with, but your taxes also also pay for some good things, like schools, and roads and Social Security. (Not in that order.)
Feminists should be especially interested in taxation policy, as taxes can create incentives or disincentives for women to work or stay home. As Lillian V. Faulhaber wrote in the New York Times op-ed How the I.R.S. Hurts Women, outdated tax policy (that favors couples where one partner stays home) combined with rising childcare costs (and lack of access to quality, subsidized childcare for women above a certain income threshold) means that for some middle class married women, all of their after-tax income will go towards paying for daycare. Ms. Faulhaber focused on middle class women because she believes that wealthy women (i.e. many of the spokeswomen for the women-in-the-workplace debate) can afford expensive daycare, and poor women who do not have a tax liability and can qualify for subsidized programs such as Head Start and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
She states that for some women the costs of work outweigh the benefits, and they may decide not to work. She writes, “That decision has a long-term impact. Every year out of the office will affect these women’s retirement savings and Social Security contributions, their chances for promotion, and the likelihood that they will eventually be able to re-enter the work force at the same level and salary. This quite likely contributes to the relatively higher rates of female poverty, especially in old age.” If we’re really serious about women’s empowerment in the economy, then taking a good, hard look at our tax code is essential.
Still don’t believe me? Then just ask the Beatles: