April 05, 2006
THE BACHELOR TAX
The way to a man's heart is through his . . . 1040 tax return? A little known footnote in history is a successful means to propel bachelors into marriage — tax their single status. Missouri in 1820 imposed a $1 bachelor tax on unmarried men between 21 and 50 and saw a rush to the altar just before this tariff went into effect. Whether it is categorized as a "luxury" or a "sin" tax, the levy on bachelors has a surprisingly long history of generating revenue.
Our forefathers — pre Hugh Heffner — saw the Act of 1694 which was instituted to raise money for England's war against France. They placed a tax on bachelors over 25 (you were exempt if you were at the university) and childless widowers. The graduated tax ranged from a "gentleman or so reputed" who paid the least to bachelor Archbishops and Dukes who paid the most — over 12 pounds. This tax stayed on the books until 1706 when the English lasses had to go back to perfecting their Shepherd's Pie to get a husband.
Mussolini incorporated the bachelor tax into his grand plan to increase the population of Italy in 1936 and had bachelors paying double their normal income tax plus an additional 155 lire p.a. He wanted a large number of people to fuel both cheap labor and his imperialist expansion. Besides the financial incentive to marry, he also took the prostitutes off the streets and placed them in state run brothels, figuring that without ready access to sex, the single men would seek a wife and stay home to have children with her. But as Mrs. Mussolini realized, to truly protect marriage, a mistress tax needed to be applied as well.
In 1923, small towns in Germany like Repelen and Hamborn taxed bachelors over 2000 marks a month. The government in Berlin said they couldn't make it stick as income tax so they switched it to a residence tax. Even today in some small German towns, men who are unmarried when they turn 30 are made to sweep the stairs of the town hall until kissed by a virgin. In this country I don't know which would be harder, trying to fit all the guys on the steps or trying to find a virgin.
You can only imagine what might happen in the U.S. with 52 million bachelors if such a tax were to be reinstituted. What would be the current day inflation adjusted conversion of an 1820s dollar? Good bye national debt. Yet the debate in the 1820s is still relevant today. Now, instead of a tax, the IRS has created deductions which have made it more or less favorable to remain a bachelor. In the 1960s die hard singletons complained about tax inequities, and the code changed in their favor to penalize the double income couple, figuring they shared expenses and didn't need the deduction. Yet with the current conservative push to save marriage, changes were made in 2003 to increase the deductions a married couple could take and allow them to file jointly without automatically increasing their tax bracket.
But bachelors hold on — the Marriage Tax Relief Act is set to expire in 2011 and the ball could swing again in your favor. Royalists, remedial fascists, and Republicans seeking reelection be damned, it may again become free to be free. Although with rumors of Condoleezza or Hillary in the White House in 2008, maybe it will be us bachelorettes who will get the most favored status. Hello tax deductible dating.
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