David Cameron unveils marriage tax breaks plan

Wedding rings The prime minister said some four million couples would benefit from the move

Plans for some married couples to get tax breaks worth up to £200 a year have been announced by David Cameron.

The prime minister said four million couples would benefit from a £1,000 transferable tax allowance from 2015.

The move, announced ahead of the Tory conference, comes after a deal with the Liberal Democrats to introduce free school meals for children under eight.

Labour said Mr Cameron was "out of touch" if he thought the people would get married "for £3.85 a week".

The tax break would apply if couples are both basic rate tax payers with one spouse earning less than the personal allowance - the amount of income you can receive each year without having to pay tax on it. This will be just over £10,000 in 2015.

The measure would also include 15,000 couples in civil partnerships.

The basic tax rate of 20% is currently in place for up to £32,010 of taxable income. That means that - including a personal allowance - at current rates people would have to earn less than £41,451 a year to be eligible.

'Happiest day'

Benefits from the scheme would come through initially at the end of the tax year in 2016.

David Cameron: "Other countries recognise marriage properly in the tax system and that's what we're doing"

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron said: "I believe in marriage. Alongside the birth of my children, my wedding was the happiest day of my life.

"Since then, Samantha and I have been a team. Nothing I've done since - becoming a Member of Parliament, leader of my party or prime minister - would have been possible without her.

"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."

He later tweeted: "The £1000 marriage tax allowance will apply to straight and gay couples, as well as civil partners. Love is love, commitment is commitment."

Election pledge

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised the initiative, saying in a statement: "We welcome all support for married life and we're pleased that this initiative includes both married couples and those in civil partnerships."

Mr Cameron said stay-at-home mothers and women who worked part-time would be the main winners.


David Cameron and the Conservative party made a solemn commitment eight years ago.

He told them marriage should be recognised in the tax system.

Come the 2010 election campaign he renewed his vow.

Some backbenchers doubted he would make good on his pledge in this parliament.

As their conference begins, they are reassured, although they will fight for the tax break to be bigger in future.

The prime minister says he is not trying to bribe people to to get married or engage in social engineering.

Critics will ask why the government should spend £700m a year on a policy that is not designed to change anyone's behaviour.

Explaining how the scheme would work, he wrote: "From April 2015, if neither of you are higher rate taxpayers, you will be able to transfer £1,000 of your tax-free allowance to your spouse.

"In effect, if you pay the basic rate of tax and your partner doesn't use all of their personal allowance, you'll be able to have some of it.

"Most couples who benefit will be £200 a year better off as a result."

He promised tax breaks for married couples when he ran for the leadership of his party in 2005, and it was also part of the Conservative election manifesto in 2010.

The Liberal Democrats are opposed to the measure but under the coalition agreement they would not be able to vote against it in any parliamentary vote but could abstain.

The party's Treasury spokesman Stephen Williams branded the move "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."

It has been suggested the Lib Dems were able to announce plans for every child in England between reception and year two to get free school lunches in exchange for the Conservative's proposed tax break.

The free school meals policy will begin in September next year and will be worth about £437 per child.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that each political party had launched policies which were roughly equal in their cost.

"So the Liberal Democrats had something on free school meals, Labour had something on childcare, the Conservatives have got something on tax allowances," he said.

"Each one is a small lollipop in the context of £25bn of cuts being expected over the following two years - none of them have said much about how they're going to do that."

'All families'

Labour said the Conservatives were "out of touch" and the move was outweighed by higher VAT and cuts to child benefit and tax credits.

Ed Miliband's party said around two-thirds of married couples would not save money under the plans, including higher rate taxpayers and couples in which both partners earn more than the personal allowance.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves said: "The vast majority of children will see their parents get not a single extra penny from this so if you are a mum and dad and you're both earning £20,000-£25,000 a year, so on average earnings, you won't get any extra support.

"So it's not a proper tax allowance for married couples. And even for those who do benefit it's just £3.85 a week."

But Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the policy recognised the value of the institution of marriage.

"It is an institution that is the building block of our society and we want to recognise that and this is a measure that's going to help four million hard working couples where life is pretty tough."

Dr Samantha Callan, the director of families at the think tank Centre for Social Justice that seeks to address poverty and its causes, also welcomed the announcement.

"We've been calling for this since 2007," she said.

"We did a report into the state of the nation and why family breakdown is such a problem in the UK today. Half of all children born today will not still be with both their parents by the time they're 15 and marriage is a more durable relationship."

She added: "Ninety-three percent of all couples still together by the time the child is 15 are married."

'Promoting a fantasy'

Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, told BBC Radio Suffolk that while he welcomed any institutions that support stability in society, in 2013 marriage "is not the only model for a family".

"I don't see why, for example, someone who has been widowed, whether it's a man or a woman, at a young age, and is trying to bring up children perhaps on a relatively low income, I regret the fact that the current proposal may exclude those people," he said.

Campaign group Don't Judge My Family criticised the move as "promoting a fantasy 1950s family" and it would not benefit many of the families who needed most support..

The Conservative Party conference takes place in Manchester from Sunday. Mr Cameron will close the conference with his keynote speech on Wednesday.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    (997 correction - Mandelson over the policies, not Prescott - not sure what made me automatically assume his Lordship was also duplicitous)

    For those who don't think marriage/committed relationship is important, read this - http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929285.800-monogamy-evolved-to-keep-babykillers-away.html

    ...bearing in mind recent examples of what is happening in our society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    995 - I'm not sure someone who wants Ed to be more like Teflon Tony can be considered staunchly "Red".

    You must have heard the serpent tongued likes of Mandelson and turncoat Prescott stabbing Ed in the back for attempting some genuine opposition policies because it may have sounded the death knell for their beloved New Labour ideals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    someone said recently... Why is an instution full of paedophiles so obsessed with people wearing condoms?

    And similarly the conservative party are a group of men who don't want change

    Or womens rights, poor people , gay rights, or anything that opposes them or the truth or the NHS or the BBC having an independent voice Thank you chris patten

    You are not us you are alone

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    991. May well be, but I'm not that interested in what any mainstream party has to say. They are all one and the same.

    983 Gives a perfect illustration of why party this or that is absurd. He denigrates Eton toffs while wishing for the days of a war profiteering criminal because he happened to have been in the "Red" camp once.

    With those kinds of blinkers its a wonder we're all still here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    They should redress the anomaly of having perverse disincentives to marry however they do it. 93% of couples still together when a child is 15 are married. Providing a loving, stable upbringing for children is preferable to not doing so.

    990 - Tony Blair MP = (anagram) I'm Tory Plan B

    (Virginia Bottomley (Jeremy Hunt's predecessor) = I'm an evil Tory bigot...and some of you think there's no god)

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    989. Did I mention religion? I think not because I atheist.

    Marriage was around before and will still be here after the religions we have today are long gone forgotten. Its a great thing that people have that desire to promise to support one another. From that is the chance it will build outwards to family, friends, communities, nations and perhaps wider.

    We should lend it support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    ADVERT to all good looking curvaceous blondes under 25.
    I'm a poor widower, fat and balding but you can have £200 a year if you will marry me.
    Conditions. Only if Cameron gets in next election.

    Its a Slim hope but hey it wont cost me a penny

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    And yet it was only months ago that these Tories were foaming at the mouth at the prospect of Gay Marriage being introduced.
    Cameron's going to meander around that subject for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Must apologise for my post @ 987.
    Sorry, serious typist error, what I meant to say was:

    Did someone mention Tory Blair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.


    its about the public declaration a couple make that's the essential thing about marriage.

    Any couple can make a public declaration without getting married. Without that paper, it is not marriage, thus it is all about that paper.

    I don't really support worshiping some invisible man in the sky, but each to their own.

    This is not really a positive policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    981. If marriage was about a "piece of paper" you would have a point. However its not, its about the public declaration a couple make that's the essential thing about marriage.

    Also its not about a "tax break". Its about supporting things in society which we believe are a positive. We seem to accept that principle about many things why not the cornerstone of any society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    Did someone mention Tony Blair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    This is discrimination, against people who do not hold the same beliefs as the conservative party, Its as bad a racism or homophobia. Cameron's doctrine on one society, everyone is treated equal, unless you support me, then you can get a bit extra. What if we have a married couple living apart with different partners, are we to have marriage police, This is bribery for votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    I'm not sure how much a registry office charge to get married however if this service was state funded (free) while making divorce through the same medium expensive surely that would encourage marriage and stem divorce

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    980. That difference, marriage, was and should be a massive difference. Its a public declaration by the parties concerned that they will stick together through think and thin.

    Maybe it is only an aspiration, which under certain circumstances is not sensible to continue with, but its important to have something to live up to all the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    "Chicken-feed" here-not equal as an election douceur to free school lunches or abolition of Bedroom Tax.
    Nobody on average earnings will benefit from this charade.
    Even some below average will not benefit. It's a disgrace, especially given what the Tories have given their Rich Etonians in tax breaks so far.
    I loathe this Tory Govt. I long for Blair Years But Ed will do if he stays "centrist".

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Re: 976. emma milton
    "Instead of synically trying to 'buy' votes with short-lived tax bribes, any government worth supporting would surely address REAL problems such as a living wage"
    Emma, real problems & real people get swept under their plush Whitehall/Westminster carpets, it's always been the way. They "actively & deliberately" discriminate against some, while promoting & rewarding others

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.


    I'm not suggesting one persons (or many peoples) experience makes it all rotten. I am saying that a family is not made by a marriage certificate. There are many families where the parents are not married.

    Why should the choice to have a party (and sign some paper) make one family more "fit" for a tax break than another?

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    @912 "Marriage is the bedrock of family and society and it doesn't need a particular religion. Kids do best with a mom and dad together. FACT"
    FACT children are raised by some couples who are together but not married. The only differernce between married couples and couples not married is marriage, apart from that all the relationship wrangles, highs and lows etc occur in both sets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    963. That's a ridiculous argument.

    Because one person has a bad experience does that make the whole thing rotten? Its like saying I know someone who has been happily married for 60 years so marriage must be perfect for everyone.

    Nothing's perfect in this world, but the institution of marriage has been more positive than negative and should be supported.


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