Each year around tax time, Patricia and Howard Bissell of Potomac say they joke about the possibility of getting a divorce to avoid paying "marriage tax."

"It'll cost us over $3,000 this year to be married," says Patricia Bissell, who together with her husband earns about $80,000 a year. "I ask him if I'm worth it. But with two daughters -- aged 19 and 17 -- I'm not sure it would set a great example to have parents living together."

As an accountant, Bissell says, "I don't hesitate to tell clients what the tax ramifications of marriage are. When I told one client it would cost $2,700 for him to marry, he wanted to hold off his wedding until the following year. But the invitations were already out and the wedding was the next week. His fiance was ready to kill me."

While Bissell says most people realize that married, two-income couples pay higher taxes, she says many aren't aware just how much that tax that is.

"I speak often to large groups," she notes, "and many people are shocked to discover exactly how much money is involved. Invariably a woman in the audience will mention that her husband doesn't want her to go back to work because it will put them in a higher tax bracket."

"I bring her home a lot of tax questions from people at work," adds Howard Bissell. "No one likes paying the tax. Changing the law seems to be the only answer."