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09 DEC 2013

Chancellor confirms tax break for married couples

The Chancellor George Osborne has announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government is introducing the married couples' transferable tax allowance.

Married couples and civil partners will be able to transfer £1,000 of their income tax personal allowance to their spouse where one spouse does not use their full allowance. The tax break means that couples with one basic rate taxpayer and one non-taxpayer could benefit by up to £200. Couples in which one parent works at home or part-time are expected to gain the most from the policy. It is anticipated that it is the start of several tax cuts for married couples.

The tax break has been widely criticised since it was first officially proposed in 2010. It was labelled by the Lib Dems as immensely unfair and a tax bribe costing the country billions of pounds for those who simply hold a marriage certificate. The party's Treasury spokesman Stephen Williams described the move in September this year as ‘a tax cut for some, paid for by everyone else.' He said: ‘You don't build a fairer society by using the tax system to favour one type of family over another. We should support all families, not just the minority of married ones where one person stays at home.'

A campaign group against the marriage tax allowance called Don't Judge My Family claims that there's no evidence that marriage tax breaks will encourage couples to marry or stay married. According to the organisation, only one in five families with children will get the tax breaks.

However, writing in the Daily Mail in September this year, David Cameron said: ‘There is something special about marriage: it's a declaration of commitment, responsibility and stability that helps to bind families. The values of marriage are give and take, support and sacrifice - values that we need more of in this country.

‘The real question is this: because marriage is an institution that helps to build a strong society, shouldn't society properly recognise that in the tax system? Other countries do - I think we should too.'

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