Reader’s comment: End this ‘couple penalty’

In response to Kathy Gyngell: How Hammond could put marriage back in fashion, Harry wrote:

Spot on, Kathy. The government's most effective family policy is the perverse one that pays couples with one child up to £7k more in tax credits to live apart, or pretend to do so. At last count there were 300,000 more people claiming lone-parent tax credits than there are lone parents.

This ‘couple penalty’ grows to £10k with a second child and will get even worse with Universal Credit: more money to claim based on household income means more to lose.



Unless tax credits are scrapped – or time-limited as in the US – the only way to resolve this is with an offset. So reform and focus the current derisory £250 married allowance with a child benefit worth thousands to married first-time mums with children under three. This would be cost-neutral, remove the bias against formal commitment, give couples a genuine choice, and most likely encourage unmarried couples to make some serious decisions about their future as a couple. In other words, commit properly and increase the odds of staying together.


  • Glass 9/10 empty

    Single parent and broken families create poorer people and poorer people are more likely to vote for the party which gives them the most free money. The labour party and attendant feminist brigade’s desire for single parent motherhood and general autonomy for working women i.e. no men involved, ensures a growing population of citizens who are dependent on the state to a greater or lesser degree and who will bequeath their votes accordingly.

    The Tories have cottoned on to this.

    • Simon Platt

      But they’ve cottoned on in the wrong way; to the wrong conclusion.

    • Old Tommer

      He who robs Peter to pay Paul can generally rely on the support of Paul.

  • Simon Platt

    Tax credits re a symptom that the tax system is broken. But, then, we know that.

    • Groan

      “we know that” but I’m not sure who really does. You’d think that the industrial scale fraud that the figure above reminds us of (a scale that became starkly apparent two census ago) would have galvanised something. And yet my friends working in the benefits agency still know that taking action on pretty evident cases of “hidden partners” is practically forbidden. Yet at the same time they busily pursue people who have disabilities. One judges on what is done not said and its pretty clear that in the real world successive Gov.s have determinedly ignored massive fraud and in doing so signal their true “feelings” about those doing the “right thing”.

  • We need to adopt the principle that was used in the days of Parish Relief.
    “No person on Relief should get more than the lowest paid working man in the Parish.”
    I’m sure that this approach could be adapted to ensure that we don’t have so many of these anomalies.
    In the past, the Parish avoided giving money. If you look at the old accounts, you find items like: Payment to Mr Jones, the bootmaker, for a pair of working-man’s boots for Josiah Smith, on relief”.
    They weren’t so daft in the old days!

    Similar to the US food coupons.