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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: December 2010

7 - Tax policy in systems revisited: families, tax law and the interaction of institutions


The previous chapter addressed the ways in which tax laws have been applied to the family, perhaps the central socio-economic institution. Child centricism presently defines the approach of the UK to taxation of the family, although individualism (concerning adults at least) is also an objective, pursued in part through the tax system. Historically, the idea of the family was based upon a heterosexual marriage at centre, and connections to biological children. This is changing, as the analysis of the CPA 2004 demonstrated, in particular, but not in a holistic way. Historical understandings of the family did not promote gender equality; and, gradually, analysts concerned with poverty came to realise the gendered nature of poverty, and the connections to the family. The idea that poverty, family and gender were connected was articulated, and ‘no less than a radical restructuring of the public and the private’ entered the public discourse. Institutions required restructuring: families, and the marketplace.

McCaffery stresses that he is not an ‘essentialist’, in that he does not believe that there are any distinctly female characteristics which lead to women either being treated unfairly by tax systems, or somehow managing them less effectively than men. He is, rather, what could be described as an ‘institutionalist’, in that he believes that the US tax system historically was set up in such a way as to place women at a disadvantage.

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