Why the Government is right to dump the married couples tax break

John Fitzsimons
by Lovemoney Staff John Fitzsimons on 05 February 2013  |  Comments 19 comments

The Government has put a tax break for married couples on the backburner. It should scrap the plan altogether!

Why the Government is right to dump the married couples tax break

The Government has confirmed that there will be no tax break for married couples in the Budget.

The tax cut had been included in the last Conservative manifesto and even made it into the Coalition agreement.

And it seemed an easy win for the Government, with Tory backbenchers and grassroot supporters in a bit of a tizzy at the prospect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which will be voted on this week.

But the newspapers were full of “senior Government sources” admitting that there would be no married couples tax break in this Budget, though they maintained it would still happen this parliament.

How it would work

The idea is that one member of a married couple (or civil partnership) who either stays at home or earns a very low income would be able to move part of their tax-free personal allowance over to their partner, reducing their tax bill.

Some reports suggested couples would be able to move around £750 of the allowance in this way.

Why it’s a nonsense

One Tory MP, Nick Du Bois, was on the radio this weekend, banging on about how the Government needs to support the most vulnerable society and this tax break is a way of doing that.

But it’s absolute tosh.

First of all, suggesting that married couples are representative of the most vulnerable people around is laughably simplistic. It’s like saying that right-handed people are some of the worst off in society. Yes there are married couples struggling to get by, but there are just as many very well off married couples doing just fine thank you very much.

The idea that the Government is offering a financial incentive for people to get married is ridiculous. And I say that as a married man who could conceivably benefit from such a move.

It’s not for the Government to promote one form of relationship over others at all. Why on earth should I be better off for getting married, compared to my brother who has been with his girlfriend for years? Why should wearing the ring on my finger be more ‘tax efficient’ than simply living together?

Couples are essentially being offered a pitiful bribe to go down the aisle, rather than – God forbid – living in sin of their own volition.

Supporters of the married couples tax break will no doubt talk about relationship breakdown and the effect it has on society. They’ll also talk about how the Government has an interest in tackling these issues.

I’m not sure I agree, but it’s a perfectly valid argument to make. But it raises two questions. Firstly, is the institution of marriage really the way to tackle those issues? And secondly, is a tax break that will likely give married couples £150 or so more a year the way to do it?

I highly doubt it. I’ve got nothing wrong with the plan to move part of your tax allowance over to your partner – in fact, I’m actually a fan of it. I just think it’s daft that in order to do so, you need to get married first.

But what about you? What do you think? Should the Government crack on with a married couples tax break? Or is it none of the Government’s business how you choose to form relationships? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Comments (19)

  • harburg
    Love rating 3
    harburg said

    I like the French system where I understand it is the household that is taxed.

    Each parent has an adult allowance,

    each child has half an adult allowance.

    Report on 08 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • g1ng3rcat
    Love rating 12
    g1ng3rcat said

    I have mixed feelings on this subject.

    I think it's only fair that the household's income (rather than individuals within it) should be taxed.

    But can't agree with the idea of rewarding married people - as someone who would like to have been married but none of my ex partners including the father of my child ever bothered to ask me! - I find it hard to believe £150 extra per year would have persuaded them to propose to me, but nonetheless such policies contribute towards a stigma against people like me whereas the exes (who are now married because apparently their latter partners must have had some special magic powers that I didn't) get to bask in the glow of supposed respectability.

    Report on 03 December 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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