The Scottish Parliament figures show that only 26.3% of families in Scotland are eligible for the tax break.
East Kilbride MSP, Linda Fabiani, commented:
“The vast majority of families in Scotland will not benefit from this policy which effectively discriminates against large sections of Scottish society, including single parent families, unmarried couples and women who have left abusive relationships.”
We couldn’t agree more – other than pointing out it’s the same for English, Northern Irish and Welsh society too…
The SNP has committed to scrapping marriage tax breaks – which it can only do if Scotland votes to become independent.
MPs held a debate in Parliament today, later reported in the Telegraph, about strengthening couple relationships. However there didn’t seem much appetite for strengthening any relationship other than traditional marriages.
Speakers cited Daily Mail articles, implied that only married people care for their elderly parents or tell their children that they love them and blamed schools, churches and the BBC for fewer people marrying. All while admitting they were “light on solutions”.
There were also quite a few marriage tax break myths that we respond to here.
However there were a few reasonable comments, including speeches praising Relate and the benefits of relationship counselling. Steve McCabe MP explained that he was divorced and still had a strong role in the upbringing of his children and then clearly demolished the arguments made for introducing a marriage tax allowance.
Edward Timpson, the children’s minister, nearly said it all:
“The Coalition has introduced a marriage tax break worth £200 a year and is putting £30m over the Parliament to support marriage counselling…”
What he doesn’t say is that marriage tax breaks will cost £700m, 23 times more than the Government is investing in counselling.
We set out 24 better ideas than a marriage tax allowance, inlcuding couple counselling, in our report Help don’t judge
Sir Edward Leigh MP said in Parliament today that he had six key arguments that rebutted opponents of marriage tax breaks. We rebut the rebuttals below… (Sir Edward Leigh is in italics; we’re not)
1. ” First, the UK is out of line with international convention in not recognising marriage in its tax system. We are virtually alone of all big countries.
Fact. Lots don’t, including New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Greece and Hungary. There’s been a move to individual taxation since the 1970s which France is currently considering.
2. “The second is the distributional argument: introducing a transferable allowance for married couples will disproportionately benefit those in the lower half of the income distribution.”
Fact. The IFS says eligible families tend to be around the middle and lower-middle of the income distribution: most are in the third to sixth income decile groups. Marriage tax breaks will not help the very poorest families.
3. “The third argument is about the married couples allowance, which was dismissed by some as something of an anomaly, but which played a key role in sustaining one-earner families.”
Fact. Um. It certainly doesn’t support working single parents who are, of course, one-earner families. And while we certainly don’t want to scoff at the difference £200 can make to some families, it seems a stretch to claim it would “sustain” them.
4. “The fourth argument is that a transferable allowance would help to make work more rewarding for many of the poorest in society.”
Fact. Um. Well. Marriage tax breaks actually makes work less rewarding if your spouse (probably the husband) already works.
5. “The fifth is that transferable allowances should be introduced as soon as possible to compensate for the attack on one-earner families resulting from the introduction of a higher-income child benefit charge.”
Fact. Any couple that is eligible for a marriage tax break is also eligible for the full amount of child benefit so it won’t provide any “compensation”.
Marriage tax breaks will go to couples where one spouse pays basic rate tax (earning between £9,440 and £41,451) and the other doesn’t pay tax. A spouse has to earn over £50,00 before lose any child benefit which would mean they were not eligible for a marriage tax break.
6. “The sixth and final argument is the stay-at-home spouse argument; most one-earner families do not have the option of becoming two-earner couple families.”
Fact. If the £700m cost of marriage tax breaks was spent on helping families with childcare or if there was more access to flexible working many one-earner families would have the option of becoming two-earner couple families. This argument also ignores the existence of couples who cannot afford not to be a two-earner couple family. They simply couldn’t pay the bills or rent on one income. And they won’t get a marriage tax break either.
This also ignores single parents, including widows, who not only won’t get a marriage tax break but also don’t have the option of becoming a two-earner couple family.
Nick Clegg today challenged the Tories to scrap the marriage tax break, which he called “the unmarried couple penalty”, in favour of giving tax breaks to basic rate income tax payers in work. Under his plans, instead of spending £700m a year giving a third of married couples £200 a year, 20 million workers who pay the basic tax rate would be better off by £140 a year.
Commenting today, Julianne Marriott, from Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance, said “Nick Clegg is right to challenge the Prime Minister to scrap his out-dated marriage tax break. The £200 would only go to a third of married couples – those with a breadwinner and a homemaker – and discriminates against single parents, widows and widowers, unmarried couples or couples where both work. In these tough times, the government should be helping families not judging them.”
Last year our call for evidence received hundreds of ideas of how the £700m earmarked for marriage tax breaks could be better spent. Our report Help Don’t Judge showcases the 24 most popular ideas.
Yesterday the Prime Minister not only confirmed his intention to spend £700m on marriage tax breaks that most married people won’t get, but also said that he wanted to go even further.
As reported in the Mirror, David Cameron said:
“I believe in marriage, I believe marriage should be recognised in the tax system. I see this as yes, a start of something I would like to extend further,”
There’s no evidence that marriage tax breaks will encourage couples to marry or stay married (or that we a Government should encourage people to marry) and it discriminates against married couples who both work, separated and single parents, widows and widowers and couples who cohabit. Only one in five families with children will get the tax breaks.
Don’t Judge My Family has just published our advent calendar and report “Help don’t judge: 24 better ideas than a marriage tax allowance” which suggests better ideas for spending £700m which would help all families: investing in childcare for all, reversing £430m Sure Start cuts, halting the plans to reduce payments to newly widowed parents and providing free relationship counselling for all couples that need help.
However it seems that the Prime Minister instead wants to spend £700m of public money on what he himself has called a “signal”.
At Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against marriage tax breaks, we don’t believe that the government should be using £700m of taxpayers’ money to judge one type of family over another. We think in these tough times, the government should be helping families not judging them. So over the summer we launched our call for evidence and asked you how you’d better spend the £700m currently earmarked for marriage tax breaks. We got hundreds of great responses – thank you! We’ve turned the 24 most popular ideas into an advent calendar, and there’s a also a full report.
We hope you’ll click every day to see your better ideas, tell others and then tell us your even better ideas by email, twitter @dontjudgemy using the hashtag #helpdontjudge or facebook
Despite these many useful alternatives we’re giving the Government, we still expect that on Thursday the Chancellor will (again) announce he is going ahead with marriage tax breaks in the autumn statement. This means that there will probably be a vote on it in the House of Commons early next year.
We believe the marriage tax allowance wastes £700m of public money to promote a fantasy 1950s family- one with a “breadwinner” and a “homemaker”. It discriminates against working parents, widows and widowers, single parents and people who chose not to marry. And we’ll carry on campaigning until the Government reverses the marriage tax allowance and spends the money helping families, not judging them.
In the meantime, happy advent!
An independent Scotland would scrap the Marriage Tax Allowance, according to the Scottish National Party. Amongst a host of commitments should the Scottish people vote for independence today’s white paper on Scotland’s Future promised that the Marriage Tax Allowance would be dropped.
We’ve never believed that marriage tax breaks will encourage any couple to stay together. But two reports this week make us wonder whether they might actually lead to an acrimonious split within the Government.
An article in the Telegraph contrasts and compares the Prime Minister’s instinctive support for marriage tax breaks, stating that “his proposal to offer a tax break to married couples projects his personal vision of Conservatism”, while describing how the Chancellor ”loathes” the idea; “He is not a social conservative and hates the notion of bribing anyone down the aisle.
Meanwhile the Evening Standard and Huffington Post carry interviews with Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey. He’s criticising Nick Clegg for wasting millions of pounds in a deal with the Tories over married couples tax allowance and free school meals. Nick Harvey described his reaction to Nick Clegg announcing free school meals for all infants:
“It seemed to be part of some coalition deal where it was meant to make the Lib Dems feel better about allowing the Tories to progress their wretched married couples tax allowance. I am supposed to rejoice at this other policy that seems to me to be squandering a lot of money”.
The coalition agreement allowed Lib Dems to abstain from a vote on marriage tax breaks. That agreement looked likely to break down this summer until reinforced with a one-for-you (free school meals) and-for-us (marriage tax breaks) deal announced at conference.
We’re of course really pleased to hear Nick Harvey willing to speak out against £700m being spent on marriage tax breaks. And we’d really like to hear George Osborne do the same – and perhaps he could also tell us what he’d prefer to spend the money on instead…
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have released the findings of their detailed study on cohabitation, marriage, relationship stability and child outcomes. Contrary to reporting in the Daily Mail and in a blow to David Cameron and the marriage tax allowance they find that there is no justification for policies to encourage marriage. The IFS conclude: “Overall, our findings suggest that the differences in relationship stability between cohabiting and married parents, and the cognitive and non-cognitive skills and behaviours of their children, mainly or entirely reflect the fact that different types of people choose to get married (the selection effect), rather than that marriage has a direct positive causal effect on relationship stability or children’s outcomes. On the basis of this evidence, therefore, there does not seem to be a strong rationale for policies that seek to encourage couples to get married, at least not if the aim is to increase these measures of relationship stability or child development.”
The full report is available from http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/6908
Grandparents Plus has responded to Don’t Judge My Family’s call for evidence to say that they believe “it is deeply unfair that many children living with wider family members because they can’t live with parents will lose out on the new tax break for married couples”.
Sarah Wellard from Grandparents Plus continued: “There are up to 300,000 children in the UK living with grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and other family members because they can’t live with their parents. Most are with their kinship carer because of serious family problems like parental drug or alcohol misuse, death, serious illness or disability, domestic violence or imprisonment. Many kinship carers struggle financially because no one plans to bring up someone else’s child, and they often have to give up work to settle children who are traumatised by what has happened in their family. Some are pensioners trying to get by on a pension, others are older brothers and sisters who put their own lives on hold to look after their siblings.
“Around 40% of kinship carers are bringing up children alone – they may be widowed, divorced or they may be single and have never been married. It is completely wrong that they should penalised because they are not married.
“Instead, we believe if the Government has money to spend on families this would be much better used to provide financial and practical support for kinship carers who have done the right thing and stepped in to bring up a vulnerable child and keep them out of care. For example, it would cost £550 million to provide every kinship care family with an allowance of £2,750 a year to help with the extra costs of bringing up a child. Alternatively, the money could be spent on providing kinship carers with the equivalent of adoption leave so they don’t have to leave work when they give a child a permanent home.”
Grandparents Plus were responding to a call for evidence by Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance. They are calling for evidence from organisations and individuals to find alternative uses for the funds earmarked for a marriage tax allowance. How should the Government use £550m a year to support families, sustain relationships or give children the best start in life?