In an article titled Taxing Families: Does the System Need an Overhaul? that appeared in a publication put out by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, Prof. Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary argues that our current tax system is unfair to families with one working parent. Prof. Mintz addresses the criticism that one-income families don’t incur some significant expenses that two-income families do such as childcare. He acknowledges that the criticism has some merit but can be addressed by making adjustments to the tax system. One suggestion he makes is to adjust the personal exemption downwards for the stay-at-home spouse and better recognizing the costs incurred in earning a living.
None of the problems associated with family taxation are insurmountable. The basic aim is to achieve efﬁciency and fairness under the tax system. It is impossible to see how limiting taxation to individual taxation supports these principles.
Nine industrial countries apply the family taxation principle. The French and Portuguese systems aggregate family income but explicitly allow for family size to reduce tax payments. The Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland and the United States allow family members to ﬁle jointly and split income. Other industrialized countries rely primarily on individual taxation but often allow for family tax principles such as the transferability of deductions and credits or joint ﬁling or splitting of income of some sort.
Prof. Mintz goes on to propose three ideas for implementing a system of taxing families. Income splitting is one of them but Prof. Mintz says that while it may be the simplest, it does not address criticisms about equitable treatment of families.