Taxing Single Mothers: A Critical Look at the Tax Code

Akari Atoyama-Little

Single mothers are responsible for raising one in five American children. They are disproportionately poor women of color. This Note explores the Internal Revenue Code’s provisions that, though facially neutral, disadvantage single motherhood in effect. Although the tax code’s progressivity does some work to alleviate poverty among single mothers, major income tax provisions intended to support families fail many single mothers precisely because of their low-income status. Many of the benefits go to higher-income families, who tend to be married couples. This Note argues that the tax code should do more to support single mothers. Specifically, this Note argues that the existing federal child and dependent care credit should be made refundable so that it reaches more single mothers and better functions as an incentive to procure quality care for children.

This article appears in the December 2013 Issue: Volume 88, Number 6