IFS say marriage tax break is symbolic and of little benefit to children.

Liberal Democrats generally don’t need to be persuaded that the Tories’ marriage tax break idea, on which they’d like to blow half a billion quid, is an ineffective and entirely wrong-headed idea.

However it’s always useful to have more ammunition against it. The Telegraph reports that the Institute of Fiscal Studies take the view that education and wealth of parents is far more significant to children than whether their parents are married:

Research shows that children whose parents are married make better progress at school and are more emotionally stable than those whose parents co-habit.

However, the IFS has found that this is only because the people who marry are likely to be more affluent and better educated.

Claire Crawford, director of education and skills at the IFS, said: “I imagine that [the tax breaks] are of symbolic value or interest to the government.

They want to signal that that is that type of family that they prefer or would like people to raise their children in.

Evidence, which is not ours, suggests that even sometimes very large incentives might only encourage a small number of people to get married.

The figures I’ve seen talked about are in the order of £150 a year, which I can’t imagine given the cost of actually getting married would be a massive incentive.

Our evidence suggests that even if it did encourage people to get married, it wouldn’t necessarily have a dramatic effect on children’s outcomes.

The IFS will be publishing further research on this later this year.

Our friends at the Don’t Judge my Family campaign against the marriage tax allowance have welcomed IFS’s comments:

Don’t Judge My Family now hopes that the Government will reconsider its commitment to a marriage tax allowance now that the IFS has declared it won’t actually help families:

This signal is going to cost us over half a billion pounds. Only payable to a third of married couples, that have a breadwinner and a homemaker, it discriminates against many modern families who come in all shapes and sizes, including families with single parents, widows and widowers, couples who both work and couples who chose not to marry.

The commitment to a marriage tax allowance isn’t about keeping families together; it’s about keeping the Tory party together. We believe the Government should be spending the estimated £550m on helping all families, not judging them.

The Coalition Agreement may bind our MPs to abstaining on this issue in Parliament, but that’s no reason why we can’t all be pointing out what a waste of time and effort this measure would be.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 25th Jul '13 - 5:32pm

    I have just been consulting on Family Law, Access and Domestic Abuse. Not everyone will stay happy ever after, that ‘s a fact. But to make the situation better it needs good legal input, to cover the wishes of the children, mediation where necessary and the ability for those concerned to move on.

    You have just been involved in the subject of equal marriage status, I believe in the same with children and relationship breakdowns, it even happens to MP’s , it happens to every walk of life.

    The right to have a life that happy.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 25th Jul '13 - 7:30pm

    £150 per year! That’s not an incentive to do anything. This is another tory policy idea aimed at Daily Mail readers.

  • It’s good to see this sensible analysis from the IFS. Conservatives sometimes like to spin the fact that married couples tend to stay together for longer as evidence that marriage leads to more stable relationships. But in reality the causality runs the other way around – it’s those relationships that are on more firmer ground that tend to consider marriage as an option in the first place. Which is no surely reason to discriminate against those couples that, for whatever reason, decide that marriage is not the right route for them?

  • Helen Dudden 25th Jul '13 - 9:55pm

    You should take a look at the statistics of those marriages that fail, also, how about the marriages that simply stay together because, how about those marriages that have problems and remain, again because.

    How sad to be unhappy and stay with it.

    I see marriage as something that is for choice, not a got to.

    I was widowed at the age of 30 years, with two small children I struggled, for many years, my children don’t seem too bad. They objected to the car crash, but then, that’s a different subject.

    Choice is there for us all and we should be allowed to make it. I would not marry again, there is no reason, caring for someone does not need a wedding band.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jul '13 - 11:57pm


    but that’s no reason why we can’t all be pointing out what a waste of time and effort this measure would be.

    Which would make us look like a bunch of hypocrites, after the huge amount of fuss, time and effort we’ve put into the symbolic notion of insisting that a state registered gay partnership has to be called “marriage”.

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