Measure to Extend Marriage Penalty Relief Passes House

Published June 1, 2004

By an overwhelming bipartisan majority on April 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4181, a bill its supporters say would save millions of families from paying higher taxes next year. Introduced by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pennsylvania), the bill would permanently eliminate the marriage penalty. The penalty is currently temporarily phased out, thanks to tax cut legislation passed in 2003, but it will go back into effect, with an increase, in the 2005 tax year.

“This bill is about American families and couples who shoulder an additional and unnecessary tax burden simply because they’re married,” Gerlach said of H.R. 4181, which passed the House 323 to 95. “Until 2003, married couples who filed a joint return paid taxes they wouldn’t have been responsible to pay had they filed separately. My bill extends permanently tax relief aimed at leveling the playing field for married couples.”

The bill makes permanent the marriage penalty relief that was originally enacted as a phased-in tax change in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and then temporarily accelerated in the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

Specifically, H.R. 4181 amends the Internal Revenue Code in two ways:

  • It permanently extends the amount of the standard deduction for joint filers to double that for single filers.
  • It increases the upper bound of the 15 percent tax bracket for joint filers to double that for single filers.

“Couples shouldn’t be punished with higher taxes simply because they’re married,” Gerlach said. “This bill ensures the marriage penalty relief isn’t reduced next year and stays in the law permanently. Ultimately, this puts money that never should have been collected in the first place back where it belongs–in the pockets of families.”

Currently, 36 million couples across the country are estimated to benefit from the elimination of the marriage penalty. Prior to H.R. 4181, that relief was slated to be reduced next year and completely eliminated by 2010. H.R. 4181 prevents more than 27 million married couples from facing an average tax increase of $300 in the 2005 tax year, and more than 35 million married couples from seeing their tax bills rise by more than $700 starting in 2011.

H.R. 4181 also was amended to extend 2001 tax relief to married couples eligible for the earned income tax credit. “The 2001 tax relief bill addressed the unfairness of the treatment of married couples seeking their income eligibility level for the credit. The relief is scheduled to expire after 2010. H.R. 4181 would continue the relief permanently,” noted Gerlach.

A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

John Gentzel is press secretary for Rep. Jim Gerlach. He can be reached at 202/225-4315. Rep. Gerlach can be reached online at

For more information …

Married couples interested in seeing how much they’d save under H.R. 4181 are encouraged to visit for an online marriage penalty tax calculator. The site, provided by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, also offers a complete one-stop shop for Americans looking for tax relief information.