Here’s how the marriage penalty works: Mr. and Mrs. report a combined income to the IRS. This pushes them into a higher tax bracket than they, or at least one of them, were in when they were single, so their taxes rise. They are taxed on their joint income even when electing to report as “married filing separately.”…

The government penalizes most harshly the professional situation that is most desirable for many women: self-employment. A self-employed woman will always pay taxes at a higher rate than that of her salaried husband earning the same amount. The “self-employment tax” hits the independently motivated worker (regardless of sex) with both the employer and employee contributions to Social Security and Medicare. There is no reason to exempt self-employed women from paying into Social Security and Medicare like everyone else. But the fact remains that a woman making a living as an independent contractor sees less of her income than a woman with a boss.

And then there is childcare. If a couple decides to hire someone to care for their children at home, their options are: take another financial hit and hire an accountant, or buckle in and get cracking on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, the W-4 Withholding Allowance Certificate, the SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number, IRS Publication 926 Household Employer’s Tax Guide, Form 1040ES,​ Estimated Tax Payment Coupons, Schedule H Household Employment Taxes, Form W-2 and W-3 reporting forms, and a similar series of state forms. The forms come with different due dates and different penalties for missing the due dates​—​it can be dizzying just trying to file the proper paperwork by the right date. Employing a nanny is akin to taking on an extra part-time job, the burden of which tends to fall on the mother.