Fraser Nelson

The Times is wrong about the Tories’ marriage tax break

The Times is wrong about the Tories' marriage tax break
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Since The Times moved its leaders on to page two, they've also taken on a new vitality. For years, they were the voice of solid good sense. It was pretty difficult to disagree with them. Now, they are more polemical, more risk-taking - and more wrong. But I'm not complaining: I far prefer reading a fiesty opinion with which I disagree, than boring opinion that I nod quietly along with. And I could not disagree more with the leader today denouncing Cameron's marriage tax break. Let's kick off:

"This is surely no time to be giving money away so that people can just carry on doing what they are already doing, namely being married. In a long philosophical journey in Opposition, the Tories appear to have alighted on moral authoritarianism advanced by economic interventionism. These are the wrong answers."

"Recognising marriage is not a good idea. It should be no concern of the State to make judgments on the lives of couples who choose not to marry or people who wish to be solitary."

The Times then says the money is not worth it:

"Even if we lay aside philosophical objections, a modest tax break is not going to make any difference. It is highly unlikely that anyone will get married to get their hands on the money and it would not be desirable if they did. A tax break is also a bad reason to stay together for couples who discover that they are not suited to each other."

better-off apart than together

There is one final error, which The Times really should know better. It finishes off saying "This policy is worryingly confused. At a time when the main message of the Conservative campaign is that there is no money, it is odd indeed to be offering handouts."

The Tories are not proposing a handout. They are proposing to let workers keep more of their hard-earned. The state would not be GIVING anything to anyone: it would simply not confiscate away as much as it once did. This is a fairly basic concept of taxation, and it's odd for The Times to get such an important concept so ... well ... worryingly confused.

Chris says I am claiming "there can never be such a thing as a handout in British politics, because it's just the state allowing people to keep their 'hard-earned'". Not quite, Chris. If the state gives an unemployed person some welfare then that is a hand-out. If the state reduces the amount confiscated from earners, this is not a hand out. The two are fundamentally different. If I give someone a tenner, it's a handout. If I steal someone's wallet which has £50 in it, and give him back £20, it is not a handout.

Sunder, what Cameron has announced is a tiny step down a very sensible road. It just so happens that this step was to do with transferrable tax allowances - there are many other ways of recognising marriage and I'm sure Cameron will do them as the fiscal position allows. And tell me: why are the Fabians so disinterested in marriage if it is proven to help the poor so powerfully? I've never quite understood...

Snowman, I disagree. I think The Times has never been better than it is now (and is miles better than when I used to work there). Having leaders that you virulently disagree with is another reason to want to buy the paper.

APOLOGY: Miss Flanders is not a single mother, as I had wrongly suggested, but like many millions chooses not to marry. I apologise for the error.