This is either Mike Todd and his wife, Kara, or professional actors pretending to be Mike and Kara. Either way, they were kicking up their heels with happiness until they learned the tax implications of the “marriage penalty.”

This is either Mike Todd and his wife, Kara, or professional actors pretending to be Mike and Kara. Either way, they were kicking up their heels with happiness until they learned the tax implications of the “marriage penalty.”

by Mike Todd

“Maybe we should get a divorce,” my wife, Kara, said, letting that thought hang in the air for a moment.

“Nah. I’m too old for Match.com,” I replied. “I’d have to use a profile picture from the 1990s, and then my date would show up expecting a cool guy with lots of hair, and then it would be all awkward when she realizes that I pulled a switcheroo on her with my younger self. You’ve had a lot longer to get used to me like I am now.”

“Seriously, though, we COULD do it. Nobody would even know the difference. You can set it up legally so you get all the other benefits of marriage,” she said.

“Hey, you’ve done research. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were serious about this,” I said.

I knew that Kara wasn’t actually considering a REAL divorce, partly because a stud muffin like me only comes along once in a lifetime and partly because she’d been on a tear recently about the tax implications of being married. Inspired by one of her friends, who lives life as a married person without sealing the deal in the eyes of the IRS, Kara started looking into the differences.

“Did you know we pay a marriage penalty every year?” she asked.

“Feels more like every day,” I said. Ha, no, just kidding. Marriage is a wonderful thing, and you do not get to 12 years of it by making jokes like that when your wife is within earshot.

Instead I replied “Oh?” without looking up from my iPhone. I try to save my righteous indignation to spend on things I might actually be able to change, like other people’s deeply held political beliefs.

“Did you know we wouldn’t pay the penalty if only one of us worked? Because we both work, we pay a marriage penalty instead of getting a marriage bonus. That’s totally sexist,” she said.

I put the iPhone down and looked up. Usually her eyes glaze over when the subject turns to taxes or finance, but this time, they were glazed over with fireballs and laser beams.

Still, this whole discussion seemed very unromantic. You might pay more to be married, but what other option is there? Just being roommates who make babies together? That seems so unofficial. No pomp. No circumstance. Plus, if I remember correctly from college, roommates hardly ever do their share of the shopping. They just sit on the couch and starve if you don’t fill the cabinets with Ramen noodles.

Fortunately, my friend Johnny is getting married soon, so I could count on him to bring a fresh, romantic perspective to the institution.

“Marriage is stupid,” Johnny said on our most recent phone call.

“Dude, you’re getting married next weekend,” I said.

“I know! It’s such a waste of money. As soon as you say ‘wedding,’ every vendor in the world just has their eyeballs turn into dollar signs. To them, you’re just fresh meat,” he replied. The moral of the story: Don’t discuss weddings with a dude who just spent a significant amount of money on taffeta.

After seeing Kara get so riled up, I came THIS CLOSE to doing our taxes again, out of curiosity, just to see what the exact difference would be. I pulled all of our documents out again, logged into TurboTax and then spent the next hour scrolling through Facebook. Turns out, curiosity was nowhere near sufficient motivation. The human brain apparently can only be forced to do taxes once a year, and only then under the threat of jail time.

Besides, I’m not sure I want Kara to know exactly how much I cost. Just keeping me around, even when I’m free, is probably taxing enough.

You can take Mike Todd in sickness and in health at mikectodd@gmail.com.

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