Saturday, 5 September 2009

Looking for a Marriage of Convenience

I was having dinner with some of my colleagues last night and, because we have clearly reached the boring stage in our lives where these things actually matter, the conversation turned to taxes and, more specifically, tax allowances for married couples. I have no idea how this works in the UK, but in France, a couple can combine all their tax allowances, meaning that if you are married to somebody who doesn't work, you can essentially earn twice as much before you have to pay tax as a single person. Taxes are high in France, and the amount that you can save in this way is easily enough to support the non-working spouse for a year as long as you don't spend too much extra money, for example by moving to a bigger house.

Now, I can see some advantages in this system. I think it is perfectly right, for example, that one half of a couple with children should be financially able to stay at home and look after them, rather than the government encouraging as many women as possible into work and dumping the children in breakfast club, after school club, sports club and hey, why not just have a bedtime story club too? But France also gives couples with children some great tax benefits too, and I don't see why somebody with no children who makes exactly the same demands on society and infrastructure as I do should have the option to stay at home and not work just because they happen to be married. Even if there are benefits for the state in lots of people being married, it's not as though finding the love of your life at 21 rather than 31 or 41 (if you are lucky enough to find them at all) is something that anybody has much control over, and yet the state is essentially giving people a financial incentive to do so, and then making it attractive for one half of the couple not to work (especially if they can only find a low-paid job) when they may be perfectly able to do so.

So could somebody please either explain the rationale behind this system or point out some disadvantages or being married? Otherwise I'm going to consider advertising for a house husband who will fix my computer and cook my dinner at night in return for giving me his tax allowance.

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