Monday, February 11, 2013

A real marriage penalty -- for Curmudgeon

Family gatherings can rise to the level of contact sport at the Curmudgeon house. Everyone has a little edge to them; it's part of the fun.

It's a little less fun, perhaps, when you are the object or subject of the conversation as I was on one recent occasion when the subject of taxes came up.

I'd mentioned that I'd just bought a computer program to assist me with my taxes again this year (there are several fine programs on the market; I've used Turbo Tax for several years). "Oh?" asked Long Suffering Spouse, in a voice just a half-tone too sweet. "Have you figured out a way, then, to deduct Olaf and the baby, too?"

Younger Daughter, her husband Olaf, and their baby have lived under my roof since their wedding last June. Olaf is working, but I am providing the roof over their heads and most of the food that they eat while (I hope, I hope, I hope) they are saving some money so they can strike out on their own.

"I imagine Olaf's parents may have something to say about me claiming him as a deduction," I conceded. "And I think the baby's their problem. But I sure as heck plan to claim Younger Daughter. I paid for her tuition, and most of her wedding, and she's still living here." The year after each successive kid's college graduation had always been bittersweet for me -- when I filled out my tax form the following year I knew I was making my final goodbye to the child as my deduction.

"Um, Dad?" Middle Son interjected. Middle Son is the accountant in the family; his girlfriend Margaret is a tax accountant. And "um" usually means he's about to contradict me.

As on this occasion, too: "Dad, Margaret's parents had a similar situation a year ago" -- I'd heard that, yes -- "and because Margaret's sister was married by the end of the year, they weren't able to claim her as a deduction."


"That's what I remember, anyway," he said. "I think Margaret looked into it at the time and she found out that those were the rules." He watched my jaw drop and face go red, then gray. "But I'll ask again," he added.

Middle Son was just trying to let me down gently. Within a day, he'd sent me an email confirming what he'd told me before.

So I wasn't terribly surprised -- just disappointed -- when Turbo Tax told me the same darn thing. I couldn't deduct 10 cents for Younger Daughter, not even for the college tuition I'd paid, all because she and Olaf did the right thing and got hitched.

Now, there's a pro-marriage, pro-family tax policy, don't you think?

We hear a lot about the marriage penalty for couples filing jointly, but I'd never heard this one. Knowing this in advance wouldn't have changed what we did last year, or how we did it.

I don't think so, anyway.

But remember how Olaf forgot to get the marriage license? Would I have been so insistent that he and Younger Daughter get over to the county and that taken care of if I'd known about this tax consequence?

We live in a time when civil marriage is being divorced from religious marriage -- the very meaning of the word 'marriage' may change, depending on whether you are talking 'marriage' in a civil or religious context. For a dinosaur like me, wouldn't I be inclined to think that the religious component more important... or real... or something? And, if I did, wouldn't I then be open to the possibility of not making the civil bonds official in order to...?

No. I wouldn't. Probably.

Almost certainly.

[Curmudgeon exits stage right, still muttering to himself.]


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

the buggers get you left and right don't they curmy?

smiles, bee

Ellee Seymour said...

We have the same issues in the UK about tax breaks for married couples. I hope my husband thinks he is better off with me, tax break or not.