Wednesday 8 October 2008

Tax breaks for couples is not family-friendly

Written by guest author, Conor McGinn.

It would appear that I am not alone in opposing David Cameron's plans to give tax breaks to married couples. I think it is particularly deceitful and wrong that he is proposing this as a family-friendly policy.

I believe in the institution of marriage. I think it plays an important and relevant role in many people's lives, and that it is the clearest expression of a couple's love for and commitment to each other. I have no difficulty with politicians promoting marriage as a good thing, and I think it is wrong to dismiss the fact that many people believe in marriage as an important precursor to having children, and also believe that it is the best environment in which to raise a family. That is a personal choice that people should be able to make, and it is one that I believe is right for me.

But I am the first to acknowledge that there are many, many families who do not conform to this orthodoxy and that they too provide loving, caring and stable homes for children. Single parents, unmarried couples, same-sex partners and all sorts of other types of family units exist and are entitled to help and support too. But David Cameron wants to discriminate against them by an ill thought-out policy that is reminiscent of John Major's 'Back to Basics' campaign.

I think Dr Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society sums it up best when she says of Cameron's policy:

"If your aim is to help parents provide a stable, loving home for children, policy needs to be aimed at supporting parents - not simply people who are married. Otherwise it penalises all those children living with unmarried parents or with one parent - and 90% of lone parents are women."This tax break would give better treatment to a man [or woman - my addition] who has had an affair, left their partner and remarried... It would privilege a childless couple who have been married a week over an unmarried couple of 20 years standing with three kids, and would be an unfair and counterproductive tax break."

Further to this the tax break would only apply if one partner does not work or earns less than the tax-free allowance all earners receive of around £5,200 a year. This partner could then transfer any unused tax allowance to their working partner. So the scheme would therefore encourage married couples to specialise caring and earning roles, rather than sharing them equally. So whilst the Labour government extends paid maternity and paternity leave, and develops schemes to help single parents return to work (not to mention Surestart), the Tories want women to stay at home and mind the weans while the men go out and earn a crust.

Oh, and if they are married, sure the women will get a few extra quid towards the housekeeping.

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