Gender equality and taxation: The situation becomes even more dire for Florida’s women

Clarissa Horsfall holds a sign reading, 'Equal Pay,' as she joins with others during 'A Day Without A Woman' demonstration on March 8, 2017 in Miami, United States. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Florida we often brag about being a low-tax state. This is grounded in the fact that Floridians do not pay a state income tax, inheritance tax, or estate tax; and many of our largest corporations benefit from generous tax incentives and refund policies too.

In fact, just this year Florida refunded $500 million to some of the state’s largest corporations, shocking even some state lawmakers who originally spearheaded the effort.

Being a low tax state can have its perks, but not everyone benefits.

In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy (ITEP) Florida has the 3rd most unfair state and local tax system in the country. This is based on ITEP’s annual Tax Inequality Index, which measures the impact of each state’s tax system on income inequality.

After state and local taxes are collected in Florida, incomes are more unequal than before– meaning that those who make the least, are giving the most of their annual income to taxes.

Being a low tax state also means that state revenue used to provide social services that support those with the least (and/or those with the most need) are not readily available, simply because Florida’s state government can’t afford it.

This situation becomes even more dire for Florida’s women.

Women make approximately 51.1 percent of Florida’s residents, and depending on variables such as income, geography, race, health status, and educational attainment, each woman (and girl) in Florida could witness very different lives.

But one common trait will be the gender pay gap; because no matter the field, professional experience, or academic background, women in Florida are currently paid 87.5 cents for every dollar a male counterpart makes.

This disparity has long term consequences, and means that the low-tax benefits described earlier could do more harm than good for Florida’s women.

In an effort to improve the lives of women and their families in Florida, we should re-examine Florida’s tax policies from an intersectional lens that integrates gender.

This approach is actually fairly new– gender equality and taxation have been key topics of policy debate for generations, though they are rarely studied together for potential or existing links.

One of these links could be gender bias.

Whether it be explicit or implicit, gender bias with tax policy could result in provisions, laws, and regulations treating people differently based on their gender. An example of explicit gender bias would be tax deductions granted to a male taxpayer but not to a female taxpayer.

Implicit bias is harder to detect and less obvious, but are related to differences in the way the tax system (or any tax policy measure) affects men’s and women’s well-being.

There could also be unintentional repercussions impacted by our tax systems. For instance, the higher taxation of women’s income may influence their labor market participation, child bearing behavior and their economic welfare in case of marriage and divorce.

This type of research would be transformational for the world of taxation and for everyday Floridians too.

As a policymaker and academic pursuing a doctorate in public affairs at the University of Central Florida, I know all too well that understanding if and how gender equality and taxation are connected could lead to new policy solutions for sustainable economic growth and poverty reductions.

It would also help legislators and administrators to prevent the implementation of tax policies that are discriminatory, ensuring that methods of raising public revenue have an equal impact that all Floridians benefit from.

Florida is a low-tax state, but through research and intentional policy making, we can help make sure that it’s not a low benefit state based on variables like gender.

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