Liz Nelson ■ Taxing for ‘true equality’: EU adopts tax and gender proposals

woman engineer working on engine in factory wearing a heard helmet

“Gender equality can and should be promoted at all levels, including fiscal policy. This report is an important step towards the promotion of a more equitable distribution of income, wealth, opportunities, productive assets and services. That is, true equality”. So said MEP Marisa Matias at Monday’s debate in the EU Parliament and presentation of the report on Gender equality and taxation policies in the EU (final report available shortly). The report was adopted on Tuesday 15 January by the plenary of the European Parliament with 313 votes in favour.

There is much to recommend the report and we are pleased to have contributed to its development alongside many other advocates and researchers.

The steady guidance from rapporteurs MEPs Marisa Matias and Ernest Urtasun has led to this critical milestone for gender equality. Not least because the report proposes that member states shift from joint taxation to individual taxation. This recognition rightly addresses a flawed assumption operating in most taxation regimes that households pool and share their funds equally. This is not always the case. There is much evidence that the joint taxation of adult couples and of families means that women can end up paying higher tax on their, often, lower income than their male partner. It also establishes important social and economic principles that women, as individuals, must be recognised as having property rights and legal responsibility for managing their own income and taxes and not economically subsumed into the ‘household’ .

Critically for women and girls, the report adds weight and a much needed gendered critique, which requires member states to re-examine corporate taxation policy and legislation including the importance of maximising all available resources for essential “well functioning welfare provisions”; provisions which are so necessary to support gender equality.

Essential next steps will be to enlist the strength and support of multidisciplinary and progressive advocates to integrate a tax and gender justice set of principles and norms in their agendas, and to hold  Members States and the EU to account.

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