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How Marriage Penalties Change Under the 2001 Tax Bill

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.

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