Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to re-order society and to encourage marriage, something about this Polly Toynbee article irritates me beyond measure. While we could never expect Toynbee to be onside with Tory policy (and her opposition should always encourage us that Cameron has got something right) it’s the tone of her objections. On the proposed restoration of the Married Couples’ Tax Allowance, Toynbee writes:

A transferable marriage allowance (basic rate only) for married couples with children under six would give a non-working wife £1,000 a year, costing £1bn for existing couples.

As I understand the transferable allowance, it lets married couples where one member does not earn pool their non-taxable allowance. In other words, it is an effective tax reduction. It isn’t a benefit, not the Government ‘giving’ money to married couples, it is the Government taking less money away. It may not sound an important point, but the implication behind calling it a benefit is that we are only allowed to keep the money we earn on the Government’s sufferance. There’s also the following piece of logic:

More money for married families means less for children of single parents who are much the poorest.
Does it? Why? Does more money for the NHS automatically mean less for schools? Is the entire business of Government spending a zero-sum game? Part of the intention behind the initiative is to remove the absurd situation whereby there is a financial incentive for couples not to marry or even to live together. Encouraging marriage does not have to mean punishing the unmarried – giving £10 to Peter is not the same as taking it away from Paul. Still less is allowing Peter to keep £10 more of his own money.

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