The tax plan moms need
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during the Women's March on Washington, Jan. 21. Jose Luis Magana | AP

During his speech announcing that the U.S. is ditching the Paris climate accords, President Trump took a strange detour to declare “our tax bill is moving along in Congress, and I believe it’s doing very well. I think a lot of people will be very pleasantly surprised.”

He was right about the surprise part — since that tax bill doesn’t exist. Trump has presented only a single-page summary of his wish list, and Republicans in Congress have introduced nada.

Maybe that’s good news. Since the bill is still in pre-existing condition, there’s still time for improvement. The Trump summary already outlines benefits for the majority of corporations and fat cats. Let’s add a few ideas to benefit the majority of ordinary citizens — women.

The old saw about nothing being certain but death and taxes happens to be true. Another certainty is that tax policy impacts women differently from men, and not in a positive way. It’s been that way since taxes were first collected, and if President Trump follows through on the so-called “innovative” changes he says he’ll make, it could get worse.

These days virtually every family needs child care — and like it or not, women are still pulling most of the load. Not to mention that females are by far the majority of single parents.

To ease the burden, the U.S. has long had a child care tax credit. Simply put, it’s a credit (up to $6,000, depending on income) that comes off the bottom line after income taxes are calculated.

The downside is that the credit only applies to workers earning enough to pay income taxes in the first place, which excludes many low-income families. Women’s groups have advocated for years that it should apply to payroll taxes (like Medicare and Social Security), which every worker pays regardless of income, so working single moms at the bottom can also get the benefit.

Working mothers of young children aren’t the only ones punished by our current tax system. Stay-at-home moms also come in for their unfair share of tax treatment.

They get a big fat zero in Social Security accounts for years spent caring for kids, unlike almost all countries in the European Union and other advanced nations which grant caregiver credits. President Trump has said he won’t change Social Security, but this is one change that’s badly needed, and would mean fewer women would end up in poverty in their old age.

If our new president really wanted to overhaul the tax code in a way that would help families other than his own, he’d advocate increasing taxes on the rich and corporations, and revoking favorable tax treatment for organizations like the Catholic Church that blatantly discriminate against women.

We could use the savings to allow child care credits against payroll taxes, give caregiver credits in Social Security, and give a little tax relief to employers offering paid family leave in the bargain.

Now those are some truly “innovative” tax ideas.

This article is reprinted from Otherwords using a Creative Commons license.


Martha Burk
Martha Burk

Dr. Martha Burk is a gender pay equity expert, feminist activist, political writer, Money Editor, Ms mag, former Chair, National Council of Women's Orgs.