Rachel Sylvester recently hinted that George Osborne was opposed to the Conservative leader’s support for a recognition of marriage in the tax system. We said at the time that the recognition would happen and George Osborne has ended speculated by telling The Telegraph that, yes, it will. Two questions flow from Mr Osborne’s confirmation:
(1) Will this tax allowance apply to all married couples or, more likely, will it be focused on those with children? A middle option (resurrecting a pledge from the Tories’ 1997 manifesto) might see the allowance favour all married couples who care for a dependent – this would include children but also elderly or very disabled dependents.
(2) How will it be funded? The idea had been for lower tax on families to be financed by higher taxes on pollution but the current economic climate makes any tax hike (even a replacement tax) a hard sell. 24% ahead the Tories may decide that they can get away with this but you can be sure that the victims of the green tax rise will be more voluble than the likely beneficiaries of a family tax cut.
By way of footnote: There was a time when Tory family policy was a tax allowance and nothing more. Under David Cameron it has become multifaceted. Perhaps most important of all is the commitment to end the couple penalty in the benefits system – a penalty that encourages too many low income mums and dads to live apart. There are also the plans to give parents a real choice in their children’s school. Recently there was also a pledge to invest in relationship support services and action against debt. In addition, Maria Miller wrote for ConHome about plans for 4,200 more health visitors and more flexible working rights.