There is now a growing analytical literature that highlights the importance of considering gender issues in taxation (e.g., Apps and Rees 1988, 2004; Hartzenberg 1996; Nelson 1996; Stotsky 1997; Bargain et al. 2006), reflecting the growing recognition of women as household income earners and economic decision-makers. To date, however, the tax policy literature has paid very little, if any attention to the gender impacts of tax policies. To address this gap, this chapter outlines a set of principles for considering the gender implications of tax policies and presents some key policy messages that emerge from the research presented in this volume.
Tax policy, like all economic policy, has evolved over time. It has also tended over particular periods to converge across countries around the same set of broad considerations, irrespective of national or political context. Thus, E.R. Schlesinger, in one of the early surveys of tax policy issues, noted that
It is extremely sobering to recognize that very often the recommendations
of the individual expert writing about different developed, semi-developed
and under-developed countries tend to bear much closer resemblance to
one another than do the views of different experts dealing with the same
Tax policy-making is a complex process and is usually shaped by a number of interests and factors, all of which may themselves frequently change. As Bahl and Bird have pointed out: 'tax policy is usually heavily shaped by past decisions and frequently overtaken by current events. Economic, administrative, political, and social realities have always shaped tax policy decisions and constrained what could be done' (2008: 283).
This presents a number of challenges for drawing out the policy messages that emerge from the studies in this volume, including the need to couch the message within the policy parameters of the current period: the need to address the political and economic realities of the day; and at the same time the need not to be too constrained by any prevailing policy mindsets and consensus. It is important also to take account of the great diversity across the countries studied.