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What exactly is the "marriage penalty" or "marriage tax" that folks are talking about?

Income tax brackets and standard deductions for "Married" filers are not double those of "Single" filers. That is (and I'm pulling numbers out of thin air here) you are taxed at 15% on the first $24,000 of income if single and the first $40,000 if married. Standard deduction is $4500 if single, $7500 if married. In a two income family, that means that by filing as married, more income gets taxed at a higher rate than if they filed as singles. Singles in this example get the first $48,000 ($24k each) taxed at 10%, married only gets $40,000, so $8,000 gets taxed at the next rate (I think that's 25% now). I think the calculation I've seen is that if you take the standard deduction it comes out to about a $1300 increase in taxes for these two. If you are a single income family, the impact is less but still there.

I recall reading an article a while back about the marriage penalty. Seems it came into existence about 35 years when single folks complained that married people were getting a huge break from the government, since it cost less to be married (shared cost of housing, vehicles, insurance, et), and complained about the "Single Penalty"... ;-)
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