Tories would use tax system to promote marriage

// 9 July 2007

divorce papersTory leader David Cameron would shake-up the tax system to benefit married couples, in an attempt to keep mums and dads together, reports The Independent.

I feel like a broken record writing about this again, but it’s hard for me to understand why Cameron thinks that any sort of financial incentive would keep an unhappily married couple together, or why it should. Let’s face it, if the only thing standing between you and a divorce is a tax break, it’s probably time to phone the lawyers.

While Cameron’s assertion that “kids do best if mum and dad are there to look after them” (see quote below) might be true, this ignores some basic practicalities: the most obvious being that, if this indeed is the case, children of parents that have broken up shouldn’t have financial disadvantages heaped on their other problems. But Cameron obviously isn’t one to let a little something like that get in the way of a good moral crusade.

The second, of course, is that having two active parents doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be married, or, indeed, a heterosexual couple of the type he imagines.

Mr Cameron said: “The kids do best if mum and dad are there to look after them and today we have a benefit system that encourages couples to be separate. We have no recognition of marriage in the tax system. These things have to change.”

He told the BBC that “mending Britain’s broken society” was the “big argument of our times”. He added: “We need a big cultural change in favour of fatherhood, in favour of parenting, in favour of marriage.”

On the one hand, at least Cameron is paying some attention to getting fathers more involved in their childrens’ lives. But things like increasing paternity leave, making sure his ministers set a good example by taking it and changing the culture of British workplaces are surely better ways to accomplish such a thing than punishing families that don’t fit the Tory-approved mould. Even going down the Spanish route of changing the terms of marriage to include equal child-rearing and housework responsibilities would be a better method: it would actually make marriage seem a bit more attractive at the same time.

Photo by Kalhassan, shared under a Creative Commons license

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