Saturday, 10 April 2010

Why the Tories' tax break for married couples is wrong

The Conservatives have revealed a proposal to give a tax break of £150 per annum to the lowest-earning third of married couples. I can understand why a government might want to make a statement about the importance of marriage (and civil partnerships), but this proposal is a daft way of doing it.

First off, at £150 it's not exactly much of a statement, is it? It's like recognising the importance of your wedding anniversary by buying your wife a bunch of flowers from a garage.

But let's look deeper. When people talk about recognising the importance of marriage, isn't what they really mean the importance of creating stable environments in which to raise children?

If that's true, then why not target help more directly by increasing child benefit and extending it to expectant mothers, giving further help in paying for childcare and so on? After all, there's no reason at all to give a tax break to childless couples or couples whose children have grown up and left home. As Alex Barker in the FT points out, a third of the beneficiaries of this proposal are pensioners.

As a non-married taxpayer, I could support that because I see the value to society of raising children. I fail to see why I should help subsidise couples simply because they're married and for no other reason.

No comments: