The Faulty Foundations of the Tax Code: Gender and Racial Bias in Our Tax Laws

This report, co-authored by law professor Ariel Jurow Kleiman (University of San Diego School of Law), Amy Matsui, and Estelle Mitchell (NWLC), examines the outdated assumptions and gender and racial biases embedded in the U.S. tax code. It highlights tax code provisions that reflect and exacerbate gender disparities, with particular attention to those that disadvantage women with low incomes, women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and immigrants. 

  • Examined policies include the joint filing of spousal income, treatment of informal caregiving, incentives for business formation and wealth accumulation, and IRS enforcement patterns. 
  • Although perhaps facially neutral, many of these policies likely provide disproportionate benefit to men, may heighten pressure for women to leave the formal labor market, and reflect biased assumptions about gender, race, and family structure. 
  • This report offers recommendations for better data and analysis so that policymakers, advocates, and the public can fully understand the impact of the current tax code and proposed tax policies.