An Updated Marriage Bonus and Penalty Calculator

By :: February 21st, 2014

MPCJust in time for this year’s tax filing season (but a bit late for St. Valentine’s Day), the Tax Policy Center has updated its marriage bonus and penalty calculator. The new version lets you compare a couple’s income tax liability when they file as singles or as married for either the 2013 or 2014 tax year.

Some couples may pay a marriage penalty—a higher federal income tax bill than they would if they were single. But for most couples, marriage means a lower tax bill—a marriage bonus in tax-speak.

My August 21, 2012, TaxVox post about TPC’s original marriage bonus and penalty calculator explained why the tax code rewards some married couples and penalizes others. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) increased marriage penalties a lot for many high-income couples for their 2013 returns but there are no big changes in store for tax year 2014.

The calculator makes it easy to determine the tax consequences of marriage in 2013 or 2014. Just don’t use it to decide whether or not to marry—there’s more to life than taxes.


  1. Leslie  ::  11:17 am on February 21st, 2014:

    Nice calculator. Very helpful.

    Would be nice to see more past years, but know that would be very time consuming and complicated to create now.

    Some couples who have been married for years – same-sex couples – do not use the calculator to decide on getting married, but to see the “benefit” they received, or “penalty” they paid, because of government-sanctioned discrimination.

    Nice to be taxpayers who are treated the same, finally.

  2. Michael Bindner  ::  2:57 pm on February 21st, 2014:

    Here is the question on a different kind of marriage penalty. What if one spouse has insurance through their employer (and covers the child or children) but refuses to cover the other spouse because of cost (and spite). What is the subisdy and penalty situation under the Affordable Care Act? Knowing that answer would be a gift.

  3. ND  ::  4:43 pm on February 21st, 2014:

    What’s up with the simplistic, superficial and hypocritical analysis by the TPC?

    TPC surely knows that the “marriage bonus” just goes to the higher earner and the lower earner pays a “marriage penalty.” This is because of the legal fiction of “earned income splitting” in the US tax code, which almost no other OECD countries do (France is one notable exception; look at the problems they are having).

    “Earned income splitting” is unconstitutional; I don’t suppose the TPC has noticed there’s been a constitutional tax protest in the last few years (dysfunctional and inarticulate as it may be). “Income splitting” creates an unconstitutional regressive tax within marriage that paradoxically becomes more regressive the more progressive the tax system has become (which it has become during the Obama Admin). Remove the fiction of “earned income splitting” and the paradox of the regressivity goes away, bringing about a progressive tax system with constitutional integrity.

    Also, the trite “there’s more to life than taxes” is a crappy dodge of TPC’s ignoring how “earned income splitting” and similar massive tax and benefit subsidies to patriarchal marriage in Social Security/Medicare taxes are hurting marriage rates among Gen-X and younger people, shifting $17 trillion debt to them, reducing birth rates among college-educated women and men.

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