Magazine article The Spectator

What Business Is It of the Taxman Whether I'm Married or Not?

Magazine article The Spectator

What Business Is It of the Taxman Whether I'm Married or Not?

Article excerpt

The Conservative party is trying to redefine marriage. I can't believe they think they're going to get away with this. Throughout human history it has been one thing, which is a loving commitment between two people who want to share a life. Now they're trying to turn it into something completely different. A tax break.

It wouldn't benefit me, even though I am married. Although I swear that isn't the root of my objection. Honest. My wife and I are in the same tax bracket, you see, so sharing our allowance wouldn't make much difference. What it amounts to, really, is an incentive for one of us to stop working and stay at home. Granted, it would never be much of an incentive. We live in London, after all, and we have two kids, and we're only journalists. So if the Tories really wanted to incentivise one of us to quit work, then practically speaking we'd have to be looking at a tax break of a healthy five figures here.

Whereas this one is only 150 quid.

'It's a recognition, ' said Tim Loughton, who is leading the campaign for this. 'It sends a message.' Well, I don't like the message. What's a party that believes in small government doing sending messages like this anyway? What business is it of the Treasury whether I'm married or not? Or whether anyone is? It's a blatant attempt at social engineering. And not even a good attempt at social engineering.

'Married families are more likely to be stable!' these people shout, knowing full well that this is akin to saying that people who own carts are more likely to own horses. Actually, as ever, it's completely the other way around. Stable families are more likely to get married. For this intrusive, irritating, preachy proposal to make any sense at all, they'd have to be arguing that the simple act of getting married makes a couple who already have kids more likely to stay together than an utterly identical couple who opt not to bother. And that's a stupid thing to even try to argue. Ban marriage. Eradicate it.

The same couples would stay together, and the same ones would come apart.

What business is it of the taxman whether I 'm ma r r ied or not?

Or if they wouldn't, they should. I'm a fan of marriage, me. I'd recommend it to any couple who fancy a life together, which is more than you could say for those Tories who tried to wreck the equal marriage bill, who were led, wouldn't you know, by Tim Loughton. But even if you accept that marriage forms a sort of glue for people who would just wander off otherwise and forget they had families at all, what makes this particular glue so much more special than other glues? …

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