The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Taxation of the Family

  • James Alm
Reference work entry


In administering an individual income tax, a country must decide what constitutes an ‘individual’. This choice has traditionally been seen as one between making either the family or the individual the ‘unit of taxation’. The choice between the family and individual as the unit of taxation in the income tax – indeed in any tax or transfer programme – is not clear-cut, and involves difficult trade-offs between competing and worthwhile goals. This article examines some of the issues that countries face in choosing the unit of taxation, or what is often referred to as ‘taxing the family’.

JEL Classifications



Community property laws Equity Horizontal equity Income splitting Labour supply Marriage and divorce Marriage tax Progressive and regressive taxation Tax compliance costs Taxation of income Taxation of the family Vertical equity Women’s work and wages 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Alm
    • 1
  1. 1.