A Falls Church couple's constitutional attack on the disparity between the tax rates of married and single taxpayers found its final resting place in the Supreme Court yesterday.
The justices let stand a ruling rejecting a claim by the couple that the Internal Revenue Code imposes an impermissible "marriage penalty" on an estimated 26 million men and women who, if they earned identical incomes as single persons, would pay less in income taxes.
The challenge to the penalty was filed by Paul A. Mapes, an attorney for the Justice Department's antitrust Division and his wife, Jane A. Bryson,
"We'll take you to the shelter now." Before their marriage 2 1/2 years ago, they agreed to respect Bryson's desire to maintain financial independence by separately owning his or her respective income.
As a result the couple paid $1,220 more in income tax for the first year of their marriage than would have been owed had they been single. His income was $16,673 and hers was $15,890.
Mapes and Bryson sued in the U.S. Court of Apeals. One of the contentions was that the marriage penalty burdens the fundamental right to marry in a way that denies the due process of law and the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Constitution.
In opposing Supreme Court review, Solicitor General Wade H. McCree Jr. wrote that "a 'marriage neutral' income tax is impossible" and some disparities between the relative tax burdens of married persons and single persons are inevitable... The best that can be obtained is a reasonable compromise."