Thursday, 21 January 2010

Marriage and tax breaks

On Saturday I wrote that the best blogs are written about times when you want to throw things at the TV. Well a close second comes when one person on radio or TV strongly opposes the views of another. Yesterday I was listening to the radio and one person thought that tax breaks for marriage were good and the other didn't.

Is marriage something that is good and should be supported? If you are religious then the answer is yes. Many social commentators will also support marriage on the grounds that two incomes are better than one, or one income and one person staying at home will be beneficial to children. The problem with this view is that if you support marriage then you do so to the detriment of those who possibly need more support like single-parent families. Many examples were given as exceptions to the rule. Children can do well without married parents. Income is not always greater with two adults in the household. Why give tax breaks to two people with no children?

There is an old joke about a man who would never leave his wife because he loves ... his house too much. There has to be an element of truth in this and financial incentive must play some part in the strength of a marriage. Money would not change the opinion of those who truly love each other. Money would not prevent the divorce of those who truly hate each other. However giving money to support marriage sends a strong signal that marriage is held in high esteem.

The problem with the Tory proposals is that it looks like they are only promoting family units where one parent works and the other stays at home. The original proposal to give tax breaks to all couples didn't help that aim and was too expensive. I suspect the second point is why they changed to proposing tax breaks only to couples with young children. The problem with this is it is a bit like child benefit, but only the people who earn enough to pay tax can gain from it.

My view is that marriage is important and tax breaks are appropriate. If other factors change circumstances like the non-payment of maintenance or low income families, then these are separate issues that need to be addressed but have no bearing on the central issue of whether marriage is a good thing. I agree that supporting marriage is fundamentally unfair. What matters is whether you want to show bias because you support marriage.

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  1. "My view is that marriage is important and tax breaks are appropriate."

    The issue is only of importance when considering the benefit or otherwise to any children of the relationship.

    You need to demonstrate cause and effect - which the tories have not done - i.e. does marriage automatically make people into better parents or are those people who would naturally be good parents more likely to get married? Or does neither of these apply?

  2. Thanks for your comment anonymous. It would be nice to know who you are (you can see my comments on secrecy in Wednesday's blog) as I feel you have commented previously. There is a Matthew who uses a similar style to yourself.

    My view doesn't include a dependent clause about children which takes away the second part of your comment. No cause and effect required from me.

    If you want a more specific reply then don't be shy - go on - reply with your name.

  3. "My view doesn't include a dependent clause about children which takes away the second part of your comment. No cause and effect required from me."

    You have provided no justification for why tax breaks in relation to marriage are appropriate.

  4. The answere is there anonymous. In the first paragraph it relates to the person who feels that marriage is good. If something is good then you support it. In the second paragraph the religious view is that you support it. In the third paragraph the basis of the joke is that people stay married partly because of financial incentive. I don't want to go on because I am repeating myself and I am sure that there are books written on the subject.

    Anyway, why are you still anonymous? I promise not to bite if you tell me your name (Matthew?)