Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can One Live as Cheaply as Two?

Years ago, as a newlywed I remember learning that because we were married my boyfriend and I would now pay higher taxes than we did before although our incomes were exactly the same. That was my introduction to the marriage penalty inherent in our progressive tax code, where a married couple pays taxes at a higher rate than if they were two singles earning the same wages. I complained to an older married friend that this seemed really unfair. Her view was that married people get other breaks so maybe paying slightly higher taxes was OK.

Recently I recalled that long-ago conversation. Newly single, I realize how expensive it is for two people who used to live as one household to live separately. When I lived with my husband in one household we had to make the mortgage payment monthly, pay utility bills, grocery bills, property taxes, insurance and other such incidental expenses. Now we are in two separate households and the expenses have doubled. Instead of one mortgage payment, our incomes support the same mortgage payment plus an apartment rental. The grocery bills in my single household seem exactly the same as before, utility bills are no different, neither is landscaping, insurance and various other expenses. The only difference is that these expenses are being replicated across town in my ex's household.

Across the gap of 20+years, I recall that half-forgotten conversation; now I get it and can see for myself the breaks that marrieds get and why net income drops for both parties after divorce.

Veena Kutler

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