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Family Taxation: An Unfair and Inefficient System

  • Patricia Apps

    (University of Sydney, RSSS - ANU)

This paper presents an analysis of the 2005-06 family tax system comprising the personal income tax, the Medicare Levy, Family Tax Benefits Parts A and B and tax offsets. The results show that most families are now taxed, in effect, on the basis of joint income. Through a succession of reforms the Howard Government has shifted the tax burden to two-earner families to such an extent that many now pay close to the same amount of tax as a family in which only one parent need work to earn the same income while the other works full time at home. This is a defining feature of joint taxation. The study also finds that families face a marginal rate schedule that is no longer progressive but tends to have an inverted U-shaped profile – working families in the middle of the distribution face the highest marginal rates. As a consequence, the incomes of second earners in low and average wage families are taxed effectively at the highest average rates in the economy. The study explains why the system is unfair and seriously damaging for the economy in its effects on female labour supply in an ageing population. On the basis of the results, the paper argues for a return to a progressive individual income tax system, to improve support for families and to raise female participation and productivity.

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File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP524.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 524.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: May 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:524
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Web page: http://rse.anu.edu.au/cepr.php
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  1. Patricia Apps, 2001. "Why an Earned Income Tax Credit Program is a Mistake for Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 431, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  2. Shelly J. Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak & Terence J. Wales, 1997. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from the United Kingdom Child Benefit," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 463-480.
  3. Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1979. "Optimal Tax Treatment of the Family: Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 0368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Apps, P.F. & Rees, R., 1998. "On the Taxation of Trade Within and Between Households," Papers 337, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  5. Kathryn Shaw, 1994. "The Persistence of Female Labor Supply: Empirical Evidence and Implications," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 348-378.
  6. Patricia F. Apps & Ray Rees, 1999. "Individual versus Joint Taxation in Models with Household Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 393-403, April.
  7. Apps, Patricia, 1991. "Tax Reform, Population Ageing and the Changing Labour Supply Behaviour of Married Women," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 201-16, August.
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