What's Sex Got to Do with it? Tax and the 'Family' in Canada

Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Claire Young]

Published In

Journal of the Australasian Tax Teachers Association

Document Type


Publication Date



Sex and law; Family law; Income tax - Canada


This article considers the tax treatment of spouses and common law partners. It questions whether tax expenditures that take spousal or common law status into account can be justified or whether some or all of them should be eliminated. The article traces the expansion in Canada of the definition of common law partners for tax purposes because it resulted in a tax windfall for the government and was key tool in implementing a neo-liberal privatization agenda. The article concludes that many of the tax rules that take spousal or common law status into account should be repealed. Some rules are inequitable and discriminate against couples with low incomes while others are so inherently flawed and poorly targeted that they do not achieve their policy goals.