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Wedding Bell Blues: The Income Tax Consequences of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

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  • Alm, James
  • Badgett, M.V. Lee
  • Whittington, Leslie A.

Abstract

Recently, gay and lesbian couples have gone to court to force the government to allow same-sex couples to marry. Largely unnoticed during the debates surrounding same-sex marriages are their economic consequences, including the impact on government tax collections. It is well-known that a couple's joint income tax burden can change with marriage. Many couples, especially two-earner couples with similar incomes, pay a marriage tax because their taxes when married are more than their combined tax liabilities as single filers. This feature of the income tax suggests that legalizing same-sex marriages would increase income tax revenues, because gay and lesbian households are thought to consist primarily of two-earner couples. In this paper we estimate the income tax effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. We use estimates on the size of the homosexual population, the percent of this population in homosexual relationships, the percent who would marry if same-sex marriage becomes legal, and the average incomes of these couples, in order to generate estimates of the revenue impact. Our calculations indicate that legalizing these marriages would lead to an annual increase in federal government income taxes of between $0.3 billion and $1.3 billion, with the likely impact toward the higher range of the estimates.

Suggested Citation

  • Alm, James & Badgett, M.V. Lee & Whittington, Leslie A., 2000. "Wedding Bell Blues: The Income Tax Consequences of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(2), pages 201-214, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:53:y:2000:i:2:p:201-14
    DOI: 10.17310/ntj.2000.2.02
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.17310/ntj.2000.2.02
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    Cited by:

    1. Nathan Berg & Donald Lien, 2009. "Sexual orientation and self-reported lying," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 83-104, March.
    2. Jepsen, Christopher & Jepsen, Lisa K., 2009. "Does home ownership vary by sexual orientation?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 307-315, May.
    3. Michael Earhart & E. Frank Stephenson, 2018. "Same-sex marriage legalization and wedding tourism: evidence from Charleston and Savannah," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer;Academy of Economics and Finance, vol. 42(3), pages 566-574, July.
    4. James Alm & J. Sebastian Leguizamon & Susane Leguizamon, 2014. "Revisiting the Income Tax Effects of Legalizing Same‐Sex Marriages," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 33(2), pages 263-289, March.
    5. James Alm, 2017. "Is Economics Useful for Public Policy?," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 83(4), pages 835-854, April.
    6. Stevenson, Adam, 2012. "The Labor Supply and Tax Revenue Consequences of Federal Same-Sex Marriage Legalization," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(4), pages 783-806, December.
    7. Madeline Zavodny, 2008. "Is there a ‘marriage premium’ for gay men?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 369-389, December.

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