Tories say marriage tax breaks will keep families together. So won’t the two-child tax credit policy split them up?
This article was published in Progress Online today:
‘There is something special about marriage,’ said David Cameron on one of the occasions he announced one of his ‘nudges’ – the marriage tax allowance. Gordon Brown had axed the tax break, then called the married man’s allowance, back in 1999 in favour of a new system of tax credits to lift families out of poverty.
Conservatives and rightwing thinktanks regularly cite the correlation, while neglecting to question causality, between the length of relationship and existence of a wedding certificate. Any marriage, it would seem, is better than no marriage. But not all marriages are equal. The ideal Tory marriage, the one rewarded by marriage tax beaks, has a spouse who goes out to work and a spouse who stays at home or works part time.
The tax breaks are only paid to married couples (and those in civil partnerships) with a homemaker who transfers his or, more likely, her tax-free allowance to the basic rate taxpaying breadwinner. Marriages where both partners work and pay tax or where neither works are not rewarded, whether or not they have children. It is not, as the name suggests, paid to the widowed, separated or single or cohabiting couples, no matter how stable and committed they are.
Limiting child tax credits to two children further defines this ideal Tory marriage. Not only does Cameron want to ‘benefit those who choose to stay at home or work part-time in order to care for their families’, he’s now setting out how many children this family should have. If he drew a picture it would surely look like an illustration from a 1964 Peter and Jane story with a mummy at home and daddy who goes out to work and two children. Even by the 1970s Peter and Jane’s mummy went to work. (more…)
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan are expecting their first baby. Like many other couples they want to demonstrate their commitment to each other and ensure that their new family has legal (and financial) protection.
But they don’t want to get married.
For Rebecca and Charles that’s because, as feminists, they reject traditional, “patriarchal” marriage. We’ve heard many other reasons from many other people (you can tell us yours by signing our declaration.)
They woud like to enter a civil partnership. But they can’t, because, as the registar declared when they went to give “notice of intention” to form a civil partnership, they’re not the same sex. The civil partnership act states it is only for “same-sex couples”.
Rebecca and Charles are challenging this in court using judicial review. We will be particularly interested to see how the Government will defend this now same sex couples can choose to marry or form a civil partnership. Previous attemps by oppositve sex couples were made (we think) before same legislation was changed so sex couple could get married.
And on Friday, Tim Loughton MP is proposing a private members bill that would remove the word “same-sex” from the Civil Partnership act. It’s very unlikely to get anywhere because most of Tim’s Conservative colleagues won’t agree with him and Labour MPs, who we hope will, are unlikely to support a bill proposed by a Conservative MP. (It’s also unusual for us to be supporting rather than clashing with Tim Loughton who’s a big fan of the marriage tax allowance…).
Julianne Marriott, spokesperson for Don’t Judge My Family, said:
“We believe that great relationships come in all shapes and sizes but the best ones are built on commitment and partnership. Opening up civil partnerships to everyone would give couples who choose not to marry the option to ensure their relationship and family still received the same legal and financial protection as if they were married.”
If you want to support Rebecca and Charles you can sign their petition (but make sure you sign ours too!) and you can contribute to their legal costs. We’ll let you know more when we do.
Labour has confirmed its pledge to scrap the marriage tax allowance!
This is great news, and of course we’re delighted that now two major political parties have agreed not to spend scarce public money judging families. Labour would spend the money (approximately £700m per year) on funding a 10p starting rate of tax. The Lib Dems would spend the money on childcare.
Last year, we put forward 24 better ideas to spend the money earmarked for a marriage tax break. We believe that in these tough times, the government should be helping families not judging them.
You can find out more about why the marriage tax break is a poor use of public money and a judgmental, outdated policy here and sign up to our campaign here.
Today the Liberal Democrats, longtime critics of the marriage tax allowance, have joined the Labour party in confirming they will scrap the tax break and use the money to actually help families by funding extra childcare.
Nick Clegg has been a frequent critic of marriage tax breaks. Despite this he committed Lib Dem MPs to abstaining at a vote which allowed Conservatives to win the vote and therefore introduce marriage tax breaks.
The marriage tax allowance will only go to one in five families with children – those with two parents who are married and where one doesn’t work (or doesn’t pay tax) and has been widely criticised for trying to stigmatise unmarried, divorced and widowed parents.
Last year Don’t Judge My Family held a call for evidence – asking people, organisations and academics for better ways of spending £700m (the estimated cost of the marriage tax break). Childcare came out top, along with providing relationship counselling, flexible working hours and helping couples make a will.
Julianne Marriott, of campaign group Don’t Judge My Family, said: “We’re really pleased to hear the Liberal Democrats have publicly announced they’ll be scrapping the marriage tax allowance. However if they had voted against, rather than abstaining, earlier this year there would be no marriage tax allowance to scrap. What we’d really like to hear is that the marriage tax allowance is a “red line” issue for the Liberal Democrats – one which they would not be willing to compromise or abstain from if they form a coalition Government in 2015.”
The Prime Minister announced a “family test” for new Government policies this week. His used his speech to affirm his belief in the importance of marriage and marriage tax breaks, but also praised (some) single parents, conceded that marriage might not be for all and acknowledged that in cases of domestic violence safety was more important than a family staying together.
The Guardian headlined their article with “Parents separating can sometimes be best for children“.
“Whereas the Telegraph went with, “Nothing matters more than family“, with no reference to single parents, domestic violence or co-habiting.
Which seems to show that PM can make one equivocal speech and sit back and watch the newspapers sell it to their readers…
It’s August. And in lieu of announcing anything new the Prime Minister has decided to return to his (and much of the media’s) favourite homily – other people’s families.
In a speech today the PM said that a ”family test” was being “formalised as part of the impact assessment for all domestic policies”, reminding us of previous announcements about government policies on shared parental leave, increasing health visitors and speeding up the adoption processes.
There wasn’t, however, a reference to how existing legislation, such as the spare room subsidy (aka the bedroom tax), would fare under this test.
Mr Cameron also committed to continuing to spend £7.5m a year on relationship counselling, call it a “fantastic investment” by creating £11.50 return for every £1 spent. Strange then to only spend 1% of the £700m a year cost of marriage tax breaks on counselling.
We heard again that marriage tax breaks were a “strong signal that we back marriage”. However they wouldn’t lead to ”people deciding to get married for a few extra pounds.”
But, perhaps not wanting to alienate all those voters who aren’t married, Cuddly Cameron slightly tempered his usual moralising saying: “And we certainly shouldn’t judge people who feel marriage isn’t for them”.
We also heard “let’s also be absolutely clear about the truly inspirational single parents” and “that there are some couples for whom splitting up is the right thing in the circumstances”.
And, as many of us have been vociferously pointing out the PM acknowledged: “there are also cases of domestic violence where what matters is making sure people are safe, rather than keeping a family together”.
Julianne Marriott of Don’t Judge My Family said: “The Government is telling us that their policies will have to pass a “family friendly” test while they plough on with plans to spend £700m a year on marriage tax breaks which will go to fewer than one in five families with children but spend just £7m a year on relationship counselling.”
Don’t Judge My Family has proposed 24 better ideas for spending £700m than on marriage tax breaks.
Happy Fathers Day to all our friends and followers out there! Hope you have a great day!
The marriage tax break only goes to Dads who are married, and work, while their wives stay at home. (Or the few Dads whose wife works and he stays at home.) Because that’s how this government thinks families should be – married, with a breadwinner and a homemaker.
We think that’s not just old-fashioned but downright judgemental! Great Dads, just like great families, come in all shapes and sizes. In these tough times, the government should be helping families not judging them.
If you agree with us, sign up to our campaign.
Sir Paul Coleridge, the “outspoken judge” who set up the Marriage Foundation was interviewed on the Andrew Murnaghan show on Sky News this morning, saying why he was speaking out about marriage. He criticised cohabiting couples and the impact family breakdown has on children.
We think that people like him should stop judging families and start coming up with ideas on how to help them. In fact, we think that the £700m which is earmarked for the marriage tax allowance (worth £150 a year to 1/3 of married couples) could be much better spend, and have lots of ideas on how. Great families come in all shapes and sizes and a marriage certificate is neither here nor there.
Our campaign director, Julianne Marriott, responded to his claims on Sky News. We’ll post a video when it’s up.
Tell us what you think – contact us!
Today the married couples tax allowance passed a vote in the House of Commons.
We are very sad to hear this news because we believe that great families come in all shapes and sizes, and the government has no right to judge whose relationship is best. The marriage tax break is designed to promote the Prime Minister’s “fantasy fifties family” which is completely out of touch with how people live their lives today. It discriminates against the one in four children who grow up in a single parent family, widows and widowers, couples where both work, couples where neither work, cohabiters, and single people. The tax break only goes to a third of married couples – those with a breadwinner and a homemaker. In fact, most of these couples don’t have children, and many are pensioners.
The measure is due to be introduced in April 2015.
We will post news of the next stage of our campaign soon.
Today the married couples tax allowance will be debated in the House of Commons. The latest predictions are that the Conservatives will vote for the measure, whilst Labour will oppose it. The Liberal Democrats have been allowed to abstain: even though they hate the policy, it was in the coalition agreement. We hope as many Lib Dems as we know oppose the measure will vote against and defeat the government’s attempt to judge how we live our personal lives.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Julianne Marriott, Campaign Director of Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance, said “The government wants to turn the clock back by promoting a fantasy fifties family with a breadwinner and a homemaker. Those who do not vote against the marriage tax allowance are passing judgement on the one in four children who grow up in a single parent family, widows and widowers, couples where both work, couples where neither work, couples who cohabit, and of course, single people. The government has no right to tell us how to live our lives.”