Saturday, 10 April 2010

Marriage tax bull

This is a very incoherent form of gesture politics:
The Conservatives are proposing to give four million married couples and civil partners an annual £150 tax break.
Under their plan, the tax break would apply to basic rate taxpayers earning under £44,000 where one partner does not use their full personal allowance.
The Tories would achieve the tax break by allowing some people who are married or in a civil partnership to transfer part of their tax free personal allowance to their spouse or partner.
That spouse would be able to transfer £750 of their personal tax-free allowance to their working partner, which the Tories say will represent a tax cut of about £150 a year for four million people.

Apparently, according to Tory sources, it's a 'symbol and message' about marriage. But since when does a 'symbol and message' need monetary expression? Seems more like a patronising and worthless little tip to me. Anyway, I'm really not interested in the approbation of that lot, or indeed anyone. Who on earth do they think they are?

It doesn't even work on its own terms. It's not really about marriage in general or it would apply to any married couple. It actually recognises the merits of having one of you (in reality almost invariably the wife) stay at home and not earn; a pat on the back for these already generally fortunate people.

But where both parents working is an option freely taken without regard for financial considerations, what business is it of government to implicitly send the 'message' that your marriage doesn't merit a government 'symbol' of meritoriousness? And where both of you working is an option taken for financial considerations - so the mortgage can be paid or holidays and treats afforded and so on - then surely the state has even less business in withholding its gold star?

There's an argument to be had about the benefits of one parent staying at home to look after kids. But the presence of children isn't a factor here. A childless married couple where one partner doesn't work would benefit (as long as the earner was on less that £44k). A married couple with children where both partners worked wouldn't (unless one of them earns less than about £6k). What possible wider social benefit is there in this arrangement?

I wonder how many people find this policy as stupid and offensive as I do?


Peter said...

It's called "family values", Gaw, and it's like a pre-paid, all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. You're either in favour of them or not. Further defence of either position leads rapidly to cranky incoherence.

Brit said...

I'm for it, it's an anti-babyfather gesture.

Sean said...

Well little "bits" of cash might not be worth much to you and me Garth, but I know 3 sets of young parents, one trying to stay at home, one working who getting their car or TV tax paid is something they have to think about paying. I wish it was 1500 quid,even though I still wont be getting it, and I would discriminate against non parents.

No1 cause of divorce is money. Another thing I will get rid of too, is no fault divorce.

I am sorry you, nic and his 150k plus bonus, a year wife find that patronising. Quite a lot of legislation that is good and rational for middle class folks is absolute poison for people at the bottom. Thats way the underclass has creeped up on us unaware.

If Mats for it I think we can all go for it

This is a link

Gaw said...

Peter: I make no comment as to whether I'm in favour of family values. In fact, my point is that this incoherent policy doesn't have much to do with them other than allowing those who do believe in them to give themselves an unjustified pat on the back.

Brit: It doesn't impinge at all on that issue. Better to address benefits rather than tax if you want to have any impact on incentives to produce fatherless children.

And as Sam Goldwyn said 'if you want to send a message, use Western Union'. And make sure it's coherent and consistent unlike anything somehow transmitted from this muddle.

Sean: You're mostly arguing against someone else. Read more carefully.

Hey Skipper said...

I'm with Sean on this.

No marriage benefits at all without children.

Gaw said...

Is that what Sean is arguing? In any event, this tax break is not linked to the presence of children in the marriage (or civil union).

Hey Skipper said...

Is that what Sean is arguing?

Errr. Ummmm. Well, no.

Bad writing on my part.

What I really meant to say is:

I agree with Sean.

Beyond that, I think the material benefits derived from marriage should be restricted to those with children.

andrea chiu said...

I am so glad to read your wonderful article. Im looking forward to read more of
your works and posts. You did a good job! Try to visit my site too and enjoy.