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D. Gilson


Single and Filing Taxes Under Late Capitalism


Marriage is good, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture between the Urban Institute and Brookings. Marriage is good to the tune of $5,091 per annum.


Using their Marriage Bonus and Penalty Tax Calculator, I enter single, head of household, under 65, middle class, no children. Millions of tiny mice behind the retina display of my 2017 21.5 inch iMac (a business expense reported on my taxes) conference and report that my tax liability is $10,781.


Refreshing the calculator, I imagine another possibility. Married, under 65, dual income, middle class, no children though we’re beginning to plan, a house bought specifically for that purpose, a ‘30s Tudor style with three big bedrooms and a menagerie of eastern facing, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a fenced-in back yard with tool shed and koi pond and though the house needs a new bathroom, the foundation is solid.


In this dream I imagine a husband, also a professor, but of history. He is a tennis player, from solid Midwestern stock, though we live in the South now and he’s thinking of taking up fishing. I tell him “We’re not that old yet, honey,” stroking his arm on the new countertop as he unfolds the newspaper and I prepare to leave for campus and, “I think our tax liability will be $21,562.”

But it won’t be. The government incentivizes marriage, giving us a $5,091 discount for sleeping in the same bed and having less sex than we did when we were just dating. Though maybe it’s sweeter now. Maybe we take the cash and go on a vacation. To an island off Cuba, like my husband has always wanted. An island where we drink too many El Presidentes and decide to adopt a child, a child who will save us another $2,172 in taxes each year.

D. Gilson

D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush (with Will Stockton; Punctum Books, 2014) and Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013). An Assistant Professor of English at Texas Tech University, his work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, POETRY, The Rumpus and as a notable essay in Best American Essays.

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