The Mercury News Weekend
Black married couples pay a higher `marriage penalty' on taxes than White couples
Married Black couples often pay more in federal income tax than White married couples. And the racial disparity in California may exceed the national average.
A study by Washington's nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that nationally, 46% of Black married couples paid what amounts to a “marriage penalty,” while 43% of White couples paid one.
That cost Black couples an average of $148 more in federal income taxes. Just among Black couples with penalties, the average marriage tax was 1.8% of their income. In contrast, it was 1.4% for White couples who experienced marriage penalties.
The difference could be even more in California for higher-income married couples, thanks to the cap on deducting state and local property taxes. Under the 2017 tax cut law, deductions are limited to $10,000 for taxpayers who itemize.
So, a married couple would be able to take only as much as $10,000. Two people filing separately could each take $10,000. Hence a “marriage penalty.”
Prior to the 2017 law, taxpayers could usually deduct any amount they had paid in state or local taxes, a notable benefit to people in much of California, where property taxes tend to be higher.
In 2018, the average deduction for state and local taxes could have been: In El Dorado County, $19,344, Placer County, $19,246, Fresno County, $16,632, San Luis Obispo County, $16,536, Sacramento County, $14,338, San Joaquin County, $14,153, Merced County, $11,604 and Stanislaus County, $13,861. The data were compiled by the Tax Foundation, a Washington research group.
Congressional Democrats from urban areas have pushed hard to eliminate the limit on the deduction, but they've gotten nowhere. And with Republicans controlling the House, any effort will probably stall again.
Trying to ease the penalty for Black taxpayers would be nearly impossible.