LETTER: Government to bring forward legislation to recognise marriage in the tax system

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Finally the Government has agreed to bring forward legislation to recognise marriage in the tax system.

This is a cause which I have been fight for since the 2010 election. Again and again I have pointed out that our tax system doesn’t do right by married couples.

Marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of human existence, and the foundation of a strong society.

Our tax code, which is the longest in the world, amazingly grants almost no real recognition to a couple’s married status in any beneficial way.

In this, we are pariahs. Of all developed countries, only two – Turkey and Mexico – suffer a similar lack of tax recognition for marriage. Single-earner married families in the UK face a tax burden that is a third higher than the average for the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, the international organisation of developed countries).

Study after study have proven that marriage is a boon to Britain and prevents innumerable social ills. A report from Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice revealed that a child born to unmarried parents has nearly a 1 in 2 chance of seeing his or her parents split up before even reaching the age of five.

This is compared to a 1 in 12 chance for children born to married couples. Countries that haven’t imposed what is effectively a tax penalty on married couples have a stronger and more cohesive society than they would have otherwise, including lower rates of divorce and separation.

The lack of support for marriage in our tax system also acts as a disincentive – whether openly or subconsciously – making marriage a less attractive option for young couples starting out.

I have been working alongside other like-minded colleagues here in Parliament to bring about a change to this perilous situation.

In 2011, Fiona Bruce MP and I tried to ensure a tax allowance for married couples was included in the Finance Bill but, despite a very robust debate, we failed to get the required support.

We did, however, show the front bench we mean business, and let them know that people in the country take this very seriously.

Significant progress has been made, and David Gauke MP, one of the Treasury ministers, recently gave an assurance that the Government will introduce a tax break for married families before the end of this parliament.

This will provide some much-needed relief for married couples, and I’m sure the money they save will be invested back into their families, into the economy, and to paying off debts.

The technicalities of the tax break have yet to be finalised, but it looks like married couples will begin to save up to £150 per year once it is introduced.

The Government is showing through its actions that it is listening to our concerns, and we on the back benches are finally reaping the fruits of long and arduous work in relaying to Number 10 and all the other departments the serious concerns our constituents are raising.

More still needs to be done, so we will be keeping up the pressure, confident that we are plotting for legislation to come through the house later this year.

Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough