The Tax Policy Center looked at this problem last summer and reched a similar conclusion. However, they added a second question - why get married?
Marriage Penalties. Means testing and joint filing has resulted in hundreds of billions of
marriage penalties for low and middle income households. Essentially, when moderate-income couples marry, their marginal tax rate moves up from, say, 25 percent, to the 50 and 80 percent ranges shown above.
For instance, a moderate income male marrying a working mother with children can easily cause her to lose EITC, SNAP, Medicaid, and other benefits as well. Marriage penalties arise because of the combination of variable U.S. tax rates and joint, rather than individual, filing by married couples for benefits and taxes.
If graduated taxes were accompanied by individual filing or if all income and transfers were taxed at a flat rate, there would be no marriage penalties. The EITC, by the way, can provide both subsidies and penalties, and Social Security generally provides very large marriage bonuses.
Someone looking at our system from Mars would conclude that we don’t want moderate income families with children to marry, since we penalize them, but we do want older households (at ages when children are likely to be gone) to marry, since we subsidize them.
Government assistance is an area where Obama could show Nixon-to-China leadership. And pigs might fly.