Marriage tax breaks: Lib Dem members oppose Conservative plans by 62% to 22%

by Stephen Tall on January 26, 2014

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’ll be publishing them this week.)

Lib Dems oppose married couple tax-breaks by 62% to 22%

The tax break for married couples and civil partners was a Conservative election pledge that has lain dormant during Coalition. Not because of Lib Dem opposition (the Coalition Agreement commits the party to abstaining) but, reportedly, because Chancellor George Osborne is underwhelmed by it. However, Conservative backbenches are wedded to the idea and the £1,000 transferable tax allowance will now come into effect from 2015. In return, Nick Clegg secured Conservative support for universal free school lunches for children aged 5 to 7 and disadvantaged students in further education.

We asked our sample of members for your views…

Do you support or oppose allowing married couples or civil partners to transfer up to £1000 of their tax allowance to their spouse (worth £200 a year to married couples where one stays at home or earns less than their tax allowance)?

    7% – Strongly Support
    15% – Support
    Total support = 22%
    26% – Oppose
    36% – Strongly Oppose
    Total oppose = 62%
    14% – Neither support nor oppose
    1% – Don’t know

By 62% to 22%, then, Lib Dems oppose marriage tax-breaks (this is pretty much the mirror-reverse of the public at large who back it by 62% to 20%). Here’s a sample of your comments…

• Lib Dems have no choice because we let it into the Coalition Agreement, but it’s a phenomenal waste of £700m that could have been much better spent.
• I don’t see a problem with it as long as those who don’t have the ability to do it aren’t left disadvantaged by it.
• Don’t judge my family
• Ideally, it should be available to any cohabiting set of individuals.
• It’s not a significant amount. Hardly worth the effort. Up to 50% would have more value.
• Let those silly tories have something.
• Our manifesto should promise to repeal or avert it.
• My opposition would be less strong if it were for all couples.
• But if we don’t give the Tories one of “their” policies we don’t get one of “ours” – that’s coalition.
• Why should married couples e treated differently from single people? Are they second-class citizens?
• Gesture politics that I might accept if it kept the Tories happy and got us something woorthwhile in return
• I support any measure that recognises the value of the unpaid work done within families.
• We are liberals, we don’t like this sort of thing.
• It is very bad gesture politics, for bad reasons. (Tory dogma)
• I would like to see anyone in a dependent situation be able to transfer their surplus tax allowance to the person they are dependent on, including children being given a tax allowance transferable to parents. It might be that actual allowances might need to be reduced to pay for this.
• I’m in a tiny minority supporting the principle – we’ve spent all year saying that marriage is worth fighting for so we shouldn’t stop now. Solid evidence base for better outcomes for children and adults in married families. However benefit should be for all married couples not just those with a stay at home partner, and I’d like to see exemptions where anyone fleeing evidenced domestic violence wouldn’t lose out.
• The money could be spent so much better, and so much more fairly.
• Should be able to transfer all of allowance if one partner doesn’t not work or should be taxed as family instead of individuals like in the USA.
• Should not be limited to married couples or civil partners, as cohabiting couples are penalised by the benefits system and also need to be compensated
• The money could be better spent in other places
• It helps very few people.
• Not enthusiastic but if this tokenistic sop from the Tories gets us something in return I can live with it. BUT the rather underwhelming announcement from Clegg on future Personal allowance increase was not it.
• Nasty little trick by Tories
• Even more than I oppose the populist nonsense of giving free school meals to primary school children whose parents can easily afford to feed them.
• 1 in 3 households is a single person. strange than that anti-singleton discrimination is enshrined in law and no party has an acknowledged policy to support singletons.
• This is a ridiculous sop to Tory grassroots.
• This is favouring a certain section of society over another.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 749 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 18th December.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.