Saturday 2 February 2013

The Stupid Party presents... a tax on being single

A major news item today is the decision by the government not to give a tax break to married couples. Not yet, anyway. David Cameron is still promising to introduce it at some unspecified future date.

Such a tax break was in the Tory manifesto. It is also in the coalition agreement, although it was agreed that Liberal Democrat MPs could abstain in any parliamentary votes on the issue.

But a major question is being ignored. Why is this policy being described as “a tax break for married couples”? Would it not be just as accurate to describe it as a supplementary tax on single people?

Tax breaks are justified for people who have dependants such as children or elderly parents to care for. That applies whether the taxpayers in question are married or not. There is no justification for giving tax breaks to anyone simply because they are married – yet that is what many ‘angry’ Tory backbenchers are clamouring for.

If Liberal Democrat MPs wish to gain some advantage from their right to abstain, they should challenge these Tory backbenchers to explain why single people should pay more tax just for being single. These Tories should also be asked to explain how the institution of marriage would be strengthened by creating an incentive for people to enter into marriages of convenience simply to avoid paying more tax.

You don’t have to be stupid to be a Tory backbencher, but it helps.

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