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.”
Happy Mothers’ Day to all our friends and supporters. We think our Mums are fab. But what makes them fab is how they make us laugh, support us when we’re doing silly things, and cheer for us when we succeed. Not whether they’re married or not. Today we’re celebrating Mums from all types of family – cohabiting, single, widowed and married – because all Mums are special. Not just those who are married.
Today the Chancellor demonstrated his acting skills by announcing that he was proud of the marriage tax break. It’s well known that the Chancellor does not support the transferable tax allowance.
However he did say he was proud that the tax break would help four million families. But what he didn’t do was refer to the over eight million married couples who wont’t get a marriage tax break. And that’s because they don’t have a fantasy fifties marriage with a breadwinner and homemaker.
The Chancellor also didn’t mention that fewer than one in five families with children will get the allowance. Or that some of the poorest families ,with single, widowed or cohabiting parents, won’t get any help either.
The Chancellor also made no reference to the cost of the tax break – which will now probably be over £700m.
If the Government really wants to help families they could take a look at our 24 better ideas than a marriage tax break.
“linking the rate of transferable tax allowance for married couples to personal allowance so will raise to 1,050 which will help 4m families they will take abut we are proud to provide.
There’s a letter in the Telegraph today from politicians and others arguing that the marriage tax break (to be confirmed in Wednesday’s budget) should be extended to all married couples. Currently, it would only go to a third of married couples: those who fit the government’s “approved type” with a breadwinner and a homemaker. The cost to the taxpayer of the government’s moralising will already be £700m a year – more than the bedroom tax saves. Trebling it would take the bill to over £2 billion, which is about the same amount of money as the Department for Energy and Climate Change spends each year!
Julianne Marriott, Campaign Director of Don’t Judge My Family said “at £700m, the marriage tax break is already a huge waste of money – in these tough times, the government should be helping families, not judging them. Arguing that £2bn should be spent on ‘sending a signal’ about how we choose to live our lives shows just how out of touch they are.”
Extending the tax break to all married couples would mean that a very wealthy married couple would get the tax break but a cohabiting couple struggling to make ends meet would not. And it would still discriminate against all single parent families, widows and widowers, cohabiting couples and single people.
We ran a call for evidence about how the £700m could be better spent. You can see the top 24 ideas here.
The Labour Party has promised to scrap the marriage tax allowance, which it has called “perverse and unfair”. Speaking ahead of the budget, Ed Balls (the Shadow Chancellor) has promised that instead, it will spend the money on reinstating the 10p tax band.
Commenting today, Julianne Marriott, Campaign Director of Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance said “The marriage tax allowance is an outdated policy through which the government is trying to promote its fantasy fifties family, with a breadwinner and a home maker. In these tough times, many couples – both married and unmarried – are both working all hours just to make ends meet – it’s totally unfair to penalise them by saying you’re only a proper couple if only one of you works. The £700m which is earmarked for the marriage tax allowance could really help families struggling to pay the bills. The government should use that money to help families instead of judging them.”
The marriage tax allowance discriminates against the 1 in 4 kids who grow up in a single parent family, cohabiting couples, widows and widowers and those couples where both, or neither, work.
Last year, our friends and supporters came up with 24 better things the government could spend £700m on to help families rather than judging them. You can find out more about them here.
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.