Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering

With hopes to enable married couples to transfer thier personal tax allowance to the higher earner, Tories have abonded key principles for the sake of moralising

When you think of Conservative party core policies, you think of encouraging growth, balanced budgets, maintaining Britain’s international competitiveness and increasing aspirations. One of the most obvious way to do that is to increase employment – which would lead to a larger economic output, higher tax receipts that can reduce the deficit, and individuals building careers that, in the long-term, can help achieve their hopes for themselves and their families.

It turns out that at least ten Conservative MPs don’t view those as front-rank priorities. According to today’s Daily Mail:

“Conservative backbenchers yesterday tried to push David Cameron into giving tax breaks to married couples. At least ten MPs backed a Commons amendment which would allow husbands and wives to share tax allowances.”

So how would this work? Currently the personal tax allowance – that amount of money an individual can earn without paying income tax is £6,475. So under the proposals, if a husband earned £20,000 but his wife was unemployed, she could ‘transfer’ that £6,475 to him, leaving him with an effective personal tax allowance to £12,950. Taken in conjuction with the Lib Dems policy of raising the threshold to £10,000, – enthusiastically embraced by the Tory right – this would essentially leave such a husband’s salary completely untouched by income tax.

The effect would be that, if the wife consequently decided to go to work, every penny of the lower earner’s salary would be effectively taxed, as the pooled personal allowance has already been ‘used up’, thereby reducing work incentives.  When the implications of national insurance, tax credits and childcare costs are taken into account, the household may even suffer a loss of income. When the idea bubbled up in 2009, the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated the implication like this:

“IFS research models the case of a married couple with two children. In the first instance, where one partner earns £20,000 and the other does not perform any paid work, the IFS puts family income at £20,300, including tax credits. Under existing rules, if the partner who does not work then gets a job paying £10,000 a year, family income rises to just £25,425 because 46% of the partner’s income is lost in extra tax and reduced tax credits.

“The IFS has modelled what would happen in both cases if the Tories brought back the transferable personal allowance.

“If only the partner earning £20,000 worked, the combined salary would rise to £21,595. If the partner took a job earning £10,000, the combined income would remain the same, putting the marginal tax rate for the second earner at 62%.”

Of course there is also the equally important feminist point that with most two-earner households having the man as the main breadwinner, the tax change would discourage women from having an independent income – but we already know what the Tories’ opinion of the feminist movement is. And  the policy blatantly discriminates against cohabiting couples. Again, par for the course for the Conservatives.

What’s really shocking is how many Tory MPs are willing to throw out all that high-flown rhetoric about economic growth, deficit reduction, work ethic and international competitiveness, when the chance for a bit of moralising social engineering comes their  way.

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17 Responses to “Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering”

  1. Pucci Dellanno

    Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering : writes @danielelton

  2. Katy Owen

    Interesting analysis- shows #Tory contradictions. Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering

  3. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering : writes @danielelton #NewsClub

  4. Michael

    Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering I Left Foot Forward –

  5. salardeen

    Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering I Left Foot Forward –

  6. 13eastie

    “…at least ten Conservative MPs…”? “…really shocking…”?

    Left Foot Forward would appear to be in agreement with more than 97% of MP’s on the government benches on this, then?

  7. media man Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering: What's really shockin…

  8. Leon Wolfson

    It’s never too early to stomp on Tory bad ideas, before they have a chance to destroy even more jobs.

    Oh, and that’s ignoring the way this kind of thing encourages marriages-of-convenience, which are fully legal if both are UK citizens…

  9. George McLean

    @ 1. 13eastie

    There you go again! Ten little Tories, each one with a job to do: asking us to put a foot on their lovely slippery slope.

  10. 13eastie

    @2 Leon,

    You do realise that, without exception, every Labour government we have ever had has presided over an increase in unemployment? Coincidence?

    And that unemployment is falling?

    @3 George,

    Tin-foil hat not recommended during heat-wave.

  11. Leon Wolfson

    @4 – Really? Before the banks crisis, which would of been worse under the Tories? Do tell! Because the statistics seem to run massively the other way.

    Oh, and that’s not even true generally. Hint: There are no real “unemployment” statistics, they’re based on a badly flawed survey. The telling figures are JSA claimants.

  12. 13eastie

    @5 Leon,

    Did those nasty bankers sabotage EVERY Labour govt? BOO HISS

    Fewer unemployed. More of those who are looking for work getting state welfare. A Labour wet dream.

  13. Leon Wolfson

    No, your typical delusion as to what happens when something other than the economic devastation of much of the country is in progress. Much of still hasn’t recovered from the last time, and the Coalition is throwing away progress like it means nothing to them.

    That’d be because it doesn’t, of course.

  14. Mustafa Hussain

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering

  15. Mustafa Hussain

    Tory MPs vote to discourage work | Left Foot Forward Postive way to support a family when one spouse is not working

  16. Ashley Harnett

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tory MPs vote to discourage work and use taxes as social engineering

  17. Peter Murphy

    So, you can’t possibly be a feminist AND be a full-time mother? Not sure about that one.

    Shared tax allowances for married couples (and those in civil partnerships) are a great idea. It strengthens marriage – and the same IFS report quoted here goes on to say: “Research by the Centre for Social Justice shows that children born to parents who are married do better on a wide range of outcomes than children born to cohabiting couples (and indeed to lone parents)”. After the scenes of rioting youths over the last week, can anyone seriously argue that family breakdown is something we’re happy to see continuing? I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of those young people come from homes where a father isn’t present. The main cause of family breakdown? Financial pressures, and ‘neglectful’ fathers ‘exhausted’ by ‘Britain’s long-hours work culture’ – not my analysis btw, but Relate’s.

    As for the argument that it discourages the lower-earning partner from working, well, ignoring the fact that the couple in question is certainly not worse off overall in any way, let’s look also at the number of caveats the IFS researcher, Mike Brewer, actually says in The Guardian’s piece: “This SHOULD mean that SOME potential second earners decide to stay out of work, and SOME actual second earners MIGHT decide to stop work.” Hmm…not exactly conclusive there are we eh?

    And the criticism that this is ‘social engineering’? Well, the purpose of government is social engineering, just as all budgets are redistributive. That’s what government is for. Setting up the NHS was social engineering, faith schools are too. All policy decisions in the social sphere could be criticized on this basis. Doesn’t mean they’re wrong, only that as a society we decide they will result in an outcome we find desirable.

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