This issue of the Taxpayer Rights Digest finds us looking forward to the upcoming Tax Chat!, scheduled for 09 February 2021 at noon EST/17:00 GMT/18:00 CET. The topic for this month’s Tax Chat! Is Gender Issues in Taxation. Registration for the TaxChat! Is free but you need to sign up here in order to receive the link to the session.
Our guests for this installment are:
- Michelle Harding, Senior Tax Economist and Head of the Tax Data and Statistical Analysis Unit at OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, Paris, France;
- Eleonor Kristoffersson, Professor of Tax Law, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden;
- Amy Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Income Security, National Women’s Law Center, Washington DC, USA; and
- Attiya Waris, Acting Deputy Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Associate Professor of Fiscal Law and Policy, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5 is “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls.” Our panel will look at the ways in which tax policy and administration can either help or hinder efforts to achieve gender equality. Specific challenges include women’s role as second earners, and their participation in the informal economy, especially in developing countries. We’ll also discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender imbalances, and how pandemic relief measures might be structured to advance gender equality.
Michelle Harding, Grace Perez-Navarro, and Hannah Simon set this issue up well in a paper, In Tax, Gender Blind is not Gender Neutral: why tax policy responses to COVID-19 must consider women.
“While examples of explicit bias are rare, this does not mean that our tax systems do not affect men and women differently. Tax systems that are gender-blind on paper can, in practice, exhibit a hidden, implicit bias and may even exacerbate gender inequalities, particularly in times of crises. As long as men and women face different socioeconomic realities, tax systems will affect them in different ways. Therefore, it is necessary to go beyond a cursory analysis of the tax law and to understand how it interacts with the different socioeconomic realities of men and women – such as persisting gender gaps in income levels, labour-force participation, consumption, entrepreneurship and wealth.”
Gender inequality also surfaces in tax procedures and implementation of policy. If tax systems are designed around the family as the taxable unit, joint filing may result in joint and several tax liabilities arising from income of one spouse that the other spouse is not aware of. In relationships involving domestic violence and financial abuse, when the abused spouse escapes, she may find herself saddled with significant tax debt, limiting her ability to provide for herself and her children.
Interested in some additional reading? See Ariel Jurow Kleiman, Amy Matsui, and Estelle Mitchell, The Faulty Foundations of the Tax Code: Gender and Racial Bias in Our Tax Laws.
We will chat about these and many other gender-related aspects of tax policy and administration on our TaxChat! I hope to see you online.
All the best,
Nina E. Olson