Tax and the Family: The Gendered Impact of Rules that Take Spousal Status into Account for Tax Purposes

Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Claire Young]

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Taxation, Family law, Sex discrimination


This chapter deals with the gendered impact of tax rules that take spousal status into account. The analysis is in three parts: (1) a review of some recent developments leading to the inclusion of same-sex couples as common law partners for tax purposes in Canada; (2) a consideration of the government’s political interest in taking familial or spousal relationships into account for tax purposes; and (3) a review of particular tax rules taking spousal status into account. After asking whether these tax rules can continue to be justified, the author concludes that we should consider eliminating all reference to spousal and common law relationships from Canada’s Income Tax Act (ITA). For example, some rules have a gendered impact, one that frequently discriminates without good reason against women and in favour of men. Others are inherently flawed and poorly targeted so that they do not achieve their policy goals. Some rules can be critiqued on the basis that they are simply part of the neo-liberal privatization agenda that encourages individuals to rely on the private family for their economic security and they exclude those not in spousal or common law relationships from a variety of important benefits delivered by the tax system.