Wall Street Journal, Who Goes First on Your Joint Tax Return? Probably Not the Woman.
The IRS doesn’t care, so why do most people put the man first on 1040? Even Kamala Harris goes second to the second gentleman.
When calculating federal income taxes, it makes absolutely no difference which spouse is listed first on a joint tax return. An opposite-sex couple can put the man’s name first, start with the woman’s name, list them in order of income, go alphabetically, or begin with the spouse who woke up earlier last Tuesday. It literally doesn’t matter one cent.
But there are two lines for names on Form 1040. Somebody has to go first, and somebody has to go second. … According to a first-of-its-kind assessment from researchers from the U.S. Treasury Department and the University of Michigan, men’s names were listed first on 88% of joint returns filed by opposite-sex married couples in 2020. That figure has trickled down a little since 1996 when nearly all returns—97%—listed the man’s name first.
The gender-equality movement of the past few decades changed the composition of boardrooms, universities, operating rooms, and legislatures. It has barely budged the man-goes-first convention in 1040. Among couples filing jointly for the first time in 2020, 76% put the man’s name first.
There is now someone in America with the actual title of Second Gentleman. That is Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer who is married to Vice President Kamala Harris, and who slowed his career down after her election. Yet on their tax return, the Second Gentleman is Number One, while Ms. Harris is effectively Vice Taxpayer. (The vice president’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.) …
Michigan economics professor Joel Slemrod and his colleagues had been working on broader research about gender biases in the tax system when they realized they had enough information to generate some data about whose name goes first. “I learned pretty quickly that nobody knows—and that’s the kind of thing I like,” he said.
Researchers found that women are more likely to be listed first in returns filed by younger people. Men’s chances of being listed first increase along with their share of the couple’s wages.