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71 Tax L. Rev. 367 (2017-2018)
Beyond Head of Household: Rethinking the Taxation of Single Parents

handle is hein.journals/taxlr71 and id is 379 raw text is: 

           Beyond Head of Household:

      Rethinking the Taxation of Single



                             I. INTRODUCTION

   Since 1951, unmarried taxpayers with qualifying dependents-usu-
ally children-have been able to claim the head of household filing
status and take advantage of its beneficial rate schedule.' Largely un-
changed in its long history since then, the head of household filing
status has managed to fly beneath the radar of most tax scholars and
policymakers.2 And indeed various tax policy proposals discard the

  * Assistant Professor of Law, Stanford Law School.
  ** Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School. We thank Anne Alstott, Ellen Aprill,
Joe Bankman, Conor Clarke, Adam Cole, Daniel Feenberg, Brian Galle, David Gamage,
Jed Glickstein, Daniel Halperin, Yair Listokin, Louis Kaplow, Austin Nichols, Jason Oh,
Katherine Pratt, Erin Scharff, Larry Zelenak, and participants at Duke Law School,
Georgetown Law School, Harvard Law School, Loyola Law School, Stanford Law School,
and the National Tax Association Annual Meeting for helpful conversations and
suggestions. We are grateful to Deborah Schenk for many helpful editorial suggestions.
Taylor Cranor and Michael Loughlin provided outstanding research assistance.
  1 Section 1(b) establishes the head of household filing status, which provides a separate
rate schedule for certain households defined in § 2(b). See Revenue Act of 1951, Pub. L.
No. 82-183, ch. 521, § 301, 65 Stat. 452, 480.
  This Article was written and accepted for publication prior to passage of the Tax Cuts
and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017. As the data to evaluate the changes introduced
by the TCJA were not available to us by the date that our revisions were due during the
article editing process, we focus our analysis on pre-TCJA law. We discuss the most rele-
vant changes from the TCJA in Part VIII. Although passage of the TCJA may affect the
specific numerical results, it does not affect our central claims here.
  2 There are several important exceptions. Deborah Schenk proposed reforms to the
head of household filing status as part of a broader simplification of the tax treatment of
family status. Deborah H. Schenk, Simplification for Individual Taxpayers: Problems and
Proposals, 45 Tax L. Rev. 121, 139-40 (1989). Because it is not classified as a tax expendi-
ture, the budgetary costs of the head of household filing status are infrequently estimated.
See Staff of the Joint Comm. on Tax'n, 115th Cong., Estimates of Federal Tax Expendi-
tures for Fiscal Years 2016-2020 (Comm.Print 2017), available at https://www.jtc.gov/publi-
cations.html?func=startdown&id=4971. The most recent estimate we could find, using
1999 data, concluded that its budgetary cost was $3.9 billion in 2001 dollars. See David T.
Ellwood & Jeffrey B. Liebman, The Middle-Class Parent Penalty: Child Benefits in the
U.S. Tax Code, 15 Tax Pol'y & Econ. 1, 8 tbl.1 (2001). More recently, the Tax Policy Center
has considered the distribution of benefits from head of household filing status along with
other provisions across the income distribution. T03-0063-$1,000 Dividend Exemption:
Distribution of Income Tax Change by AGI Class, Non-Elderly Returns, 2003, Urban-


Imaged with the permission of Tax Law Review of New York University School of Law

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