Danish women have managed their own earning since 1880, but joint taxation of married couples was first abolished in 1983
By Katarina Blomqvist
Married women in Denmark were granted the right to manage their own earnings in 1880. But when the first Danish income tax law was passed in 1903, only the husband was legally regarded as a taxpayer, i.e. that he alone should pay tax on the household’s combined income.
The married woman did not exist as a taxpayer in her own right. In 1912 the husband became entitled to a so-called ‘wife allowance’ as compensation for extra expenses incurred in connection with any paid employment his wife might have. In 1922 new legislation pertaining to marriage and taxation was introduced.
The marriage law placed husband and wife on an equal footing and imposed an obligation of mutual support. The taxation law distinguished between providers and non-providers, and a ‘provider allowance’ was introduced for men whose wives did not go out to work. The provider allowance meant that it was of no financial advantage for married women to have paid employment.
A Nordic research project shows how equality within marriage was the foundation of the Nordic welfare model:
Women’s organisations, led by Dansk Kvindesamfund (Danish Women’s Society), spent the entire 20th century campaigning for separate taxation – i.e. that the one who earns the money should also pay the tax on that money. But, beyond the forum of the women’s organisations, there was no great support for separate taxation. However, in the 1960s, when huge numbers of married women entered the labour market, more and more people came to acknowledge the unfairness of joint taxation of married couples. In 1963 the Danish Women’s Society collected 70,000 signatures on a petition for the abolition of joint taxation.
In 1970 a law introducing taxation at source finally resulted in separate taxation of a married couple’s income earned from employment. But it was not until 1983, when a new law abolished joint taxation of a married couple’s capital, that the married woman in reality achieved the status of taxpayer on an equal footing with her husband.