current affairs

Tax breaks for married couples don’t add up

The Conservatives have issued a statement on what “Supporting marriage” means. To sum up t

The Conservatives have issued a statement on what “Supporting marriage” means. To sum up the standard of argument in it in just four words, they would have to be: it’s not very good.

Are we really the odd ones out?

One of the reasons given is that: “We are the only country in the G7 that doesn’t (recognise marriage in the tax system).”

Let’s go through the other G7 countries, shall we?

Firstly, we have Japan – a nation where honour is everything, working yourself to death isn’t exactly uncommon, and where the government let the organisation behind one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters organise the clean-up. Let’s discount Japan, yeah?

Then we have Germany, where the governing political party is the Christian Democratic Union – a more God-fearing version of our very own beloved Conservative Party. If the CDU had read their bibles a bit more closely, surely they wouldn’t differentiate between single people, married couples, the divorced or widowed. “For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:11)

Italy is also a G7 member. Italy’s tax system allows you to pay some of your tax to a church of your choice, as opposed to the Treasury, which seems a tad outdated. They also elected Berlusconi, which surely can’t reflect well on their judgement, either.

Next we come to France. The French tax system’s recognition of marriage appears to be an anachronistic aspect of their pro-natal policy. If you have kids, you pay less tax – it’s very simple, and – of course – in those days, you did not have kids outside wedlock. 

The USA? Erm, no. They’ve only just stopped taking weaponry into coffee shops, for heaven’s sake.

Then we arrive at Canada. Oh yes, Canada. A largely liberal country, is Canada. Liberal enough, in fact, to use an excellent comparator against their southerly neighbours every time they do something ridiculous. A country where Americans regularly sneak in to get cheaper prescriptions. So why on earth would a country as reasonable as Canada give tax breaks to married couples?

Well, it’s because they don’t just give tax breaks to married couples. Common law couples – or any pair that have lived together for a year – are entitled to the same tax breaks as married couples.

That’s not to say that this policy is still a good thing. Why is it that an abusive husband should get a tax break, while a war widow doesn’t? There’s no logic to it.

“So this is a signal that we value the commitment of marriage.”

Is it really? If a tax break for married couples is a recognition of commitment, then what is the removal of the spare room subsidy (see ‘bedroom tax’) a recognition of?

In fact, it’s more farcical than you would believe – the Tax Research blog claims that this policy will actually cost more than the so-called bedroom tax will save. Essentially, the government will force out people who ‘under-occupy’ – typically single people in two or more bedroom properties – into one bedroom properties, of which this country has a huge deficit.

Single bedroom properties are, coincidentally, all that married couples on benefits are entitled to without penalty.