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

Are Tory proposals for married couple tax breaks past their sell by date?

Published on January 20th 2010.


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

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.”

The Conservative idea. You're not married, you must pay extra, naughty person

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

tblzebraJanuary 20th 2010.

Does it include civil partnerships, or is it just for het's? Let me guess...

tblzebraJanuary 20th 2010.

HELP! I answered the question for the poll as YES, then realised the explanation after the dash means I replied the opposite way than intended. It needs changing. (Maybe that's why the results are so close too?)

JJJanuary 20th 2010.

Question and answer on the vote rather confusing.

Lordy LordJanuary 20th 2010.

Something has to convince all these heathens to stop living in sin. Hell fire and damnation clearly hasn't been working.

ADJanuary 20th 2010.

Only helping 40% of married couples sounds bad but its quite likely that the time in most mariges when one partner is not working is when they have young children. Which often streches family finances the most, so maybe the right 40% will be getting the benefit.

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2010.

This is really a little boondoogle for the wealthy as Cable says and had been from time the Ian Duncan Smith report suggested it. Most couples need two incomes and maybe every little helps but the maximum amount for basic rate tax payers it very small.

scoteeeJanuary 20th 2010.

It's all spin before the elections and will never happen.The conservative goal of getting us all talking about them seems to have paid off.

jjJanuary 20th 2010.

In the Metro this morning Cameron says that statistics show 1 in 11 married couples with children break up before the child is 5, but for unmarried couples the figure is closer to half. Maybe married people try harder to stick with it for the sake of the kids, or maybe unmarried ones need lessons in contraception...

NonservativeJanuary 20th 2010.

They may aswell go the whole hog and give tax breaks for regular church attendees!Marriage has lost its way nowadays and very few people do it for the right reasons, and therefore incentivising marriage is just a step in the wrong direction completely.Who knows, maybe the torries have vested interest in the law firms set to make a killing on the ever growing list of divorce cases? Seems highly likely when you see how much they get in kind from the big consultancy firms at present on the proviso that when they get in power they're in the running for the big contracts (estimated £4bn to be spent on consultancy).Who knows what they are up to, maybe a glance back at the last torie government might gives us some clues.

JJanuary 20th 2010.

Rather than chuck taxpayers money at folk for breeding kid after kid and with multiple partners it is about time this country made each and everyone financially responsible for their own....as it is, we pick up the bill so personal responsibility is never considered. Nothing wrong with a policy that encourages people to stick through it, through the good and bad just as the vows say! People give up at the first hurdle these days...sad.

KieranJanuary 20th 2010.

Surely this is a double kick in the nuts for single parents? Your partner leaves you, you then have to work to support your family, only to find out that if they had stayed with you you'd have got their tax allowance too?To me the Lib Dem policy on upping the threshold at which you start paying tax seems a more sensible option. It does seem crazy that somebody earning £10k a year - which is barely enough to live off - should be paying tax and NI, only to then get their earnings topped up the 'working tax credits'.

RJJanuary 20th 2010.

If this is about supporting families and young children in particular then a reform of the maternity / paternity allowances would make more sense. I would benefit from this change because my husband is a stay at home dad and therefore is not working nor does he get any form of paternity benefits (whereas if it was the other way round, even if I didn't get maternity pay from work I would get basic support from the government). The ability to share maternity / paternity leave between couples (as is the case in Sweden, for e.g.) would help to 'support' our family, and many others, in a more logical and modern way than tax breaks simply for being married.

SuzJanuary 20th 2010.

I would like to know exactly how many people Nonservative knows who married for the 'wrong reasons'. I for one welcome the breaks. I am married no kids and not planning them till we can support them properly. Don't condemn people who choose to make a commitment to one another. Personally I don't understand how you can commit to have a child with someone but not be commited enough to marry them.

amarriedtaxpayerJanuary 20th 2010.

Why should two people living together who are not married get more than two peple who are? Ony fair way is to make it equal regardless but I think more should be done to prevent people claiming bennefits as not to be co-habbiting when they actually are. These are the real scum!

PeeksJanuary 20th 2010.

So the question at the top of the page in big print says "Should married couples have tax breaks?", but the yes/no poll above relates to a different (pretty much opposite) question - that's helpful.

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