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Tax breaks for married couples

Tory proposals for married couple tax breaks are old-fashioned and cynical aren't they?

Published on January 18th 2010.

Tax breaks for married couples

Should married couples have bigger tax breaks than those who live together? This is what the Conservatives think in their pursuit of the Middle England, Daily Mail reader. Davie boy Cameron thinks stable sorts should be given tax breaks. Cameron said: "if you take responsibility you will be rewarded, if you don't you won't".

The main point is one of principle. Surely in 2010 the type of social engineering being considered by the Conservatives is out of step with the times? The idea of government reaching into private relationships is past its sell by date.

That's plain insulting for those who don't seek state or religious endorsement of their familial or bedroom arrangements. It treats them as unstable, unreliable and not as worthy as those who get 'on the books' so to speak.

It's almost childish too. When traditionalists hawk statistics about broken homes and unmarried couples they are simply not measuring like with like. Unmarried people in unstable relationships will break up just as those who are married will – there are more than 150,000 divorces a year in the UK.

The Tories also did that 2+2=5 thing with Cameron's Shadow Cabinet colleague, William Hague stating that: “the main thing is to support families in order to combat social problems such as crime and drugs and encouraging marriage in the tax system is part of that.”

Eh? So if you're in an unmarried partnership your more likely to be a druggie?

Labour and the Lib Dems have been more sensible.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls, said the policy was "unfair" and amounted to "social engineering". He said: "Marriage is a really important institution in our society for bringing up children, but what we are saying is let's support all relationships, strong relationships, because that's the best way to help children.”

Nor would there be justice in the Tory proposals as they stand even for those who were married. As Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader has said: "David Cameron is plain wrong to say that we, the country, should spend billions of pounds providing a tax bribe for people simply to hold up a marriage certificate.”

Vince Cable, Clegg's Liberal colleague, has stated it's no business of the government to interfere in personal relationships. He writes that there might be 'a strong link between marriage and socially desirable outcomes. But what causes what? Are couples caring, happy, stable and good parents because they are married, or are they good parents because they are caring, happy and stable couples? The latter seems more plausible to me. And, of course, average figures conceal many unhappy, bad marriages and many happy and good relationships (or single parents) outside marriage.'

It gets worse, the tax proposals don't even affect all married couples.

Cable again: 'Married couples who are both earning would derive no benefit, since they already use their tax allowances. Those who are very poor and pay no income tax would derive no benefit either. In fact only 40 per cent of married couples would benefit. And high earners would benefit disproportionately because they can offset the 40 per cent tax rate.'An estimated one million people who are legally married already live apart. What is to stop them claiming the tax break or others from getting married for the tax benefit and then living apart? An army of snoopers would have to be mobilised to stop people cheating.'

That's besides the point in some respects. The main point is one of principle. Surely in 2010 the type of social engineering being considered by the Conservatives is out of step with the times? The idea of government reaching into private relationships is past its sell by date. Only those miserable world states groaning under medieval religious notions pursue such policies, not modern countries where the aspiration is that freeborn people should moderate their own private lives.

As you can see we're dead against such a discriminatory tax. But do you agree with us or are the Tories right to propose tax benefits for married couples?

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Thora HerditallbeforeJanuary 18th 2010.

One thing is for sure: poor married couples will be infinitely worse off under this new tax arrangement than rich married couples.

Q.C.January 18th 2010.

With all that extra marrying and divorcing Cameron is trying to encourage, the lawyers will be creaming off an even greater income or 'tax' from the public at large and the economy as a whole.

Nik16January 18th 2010.

U won't catch me gettn married but won't vote 4 him so no bother

MeldrewJanuary 18th 2010.

As at 3.2.2010 I can't believe there are 48 per cent of LA readers think you should be better off tax wise if you are married !

DigJanuary 18th 2010.

I c wot u mean Angie. My Bookface was like that once upon a time. No more though. Ow u doin Nik16? My hero.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2010.

It was worse until I put in several multiple votes the other evening.

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