Belfast Telegraph

Singletons... the black sheep of David Cameron's tax regime

By Gail Walker

Love is love. Commitment is commitment. And kettles are kettles. And tables are tables. And electioneering is electioneering. According to the Prime Minister, love (and a marriage, or civil union certificate) is all you need – for a nice tax cut. Much was made of David Cameron's tweet in regard to supporting the idea of same-sex marriage. But the bigger message seems to have gone by the by: if you're not a legally recognised couple, you're a bit of a waste of time, aren't you?

Ah, but the Prime Minister should be supported for helping families, the glue that holds society together, yadda yadda yadda.

The subtext of all this 'supporting the family' guff is the implication that all singletons out there – the young, the old, the divorced, the widowed, the abandoned, the luckless and those who just want to be single – are somehow steadily undermining society. Or just well dodgy.

Like reds under the bed, these oddballs like nothing more than filling all their empty booze bottles with petrol to make Molotov cocktails to hurl at the police and/or gnawing at the very fabric of society. At the very least, they just rub all the couples' domesticated noses in it by noisily going out for weekends of hedonistic abandon.

That's not as much a parody as it seems. Tax is cash. Imagine if couples were penalised by the tax system once they get married and you will get an idea of how the tax break is viewed among the sad bachelors and spinsters of Britain.

The tax break isn't large enough to count as indefensible discrimination, but it is still discriminatory, just of the defensible sort. Of the sort where childcare costs and 'community cohesion' can be thrown in to the mix to excuse the variation in treatment.

Nonetheless, the Prime Minister would be better served having a good look at the world we actually live in. Depending on which social survey you read, the majority of adults will soon be living without a partner – or without one for very, very long periods.

What he would see are responsible, productive, caring, single people working hard and paying their whack. And, some would argue, more than their whack. Who's the most likely to be given the anti-social shift? The single person. That awkward conference in the middle of nowhere? Send for the first suitable SP.

When Tristram and Tamara have the snuffles who gets the extra files? The SP. Serves them right for all the irresponsible fun they're having. After a hard week of slogging it out at the desk, or the aisles, or the fields, they just want to collapse in front of the omnibus edition of Corrie. Just like the 'normal' people.

Because they are 'normal' people. So why should marrieds get a tax cut for what is a lifestyle choice – or just a stroke of fate? Why should a single gay man from Banbridge take up the tax slack of a gay couple living on the Malone Road? Or a widow in the Village in south Belfast do likewise for a young professional couple on the Gold Coast?

The additional £1,000-per-annum tax allowance break (up to £200 a year in cold, hard cash) for those in marriages and civil unions that Dave proposes has to be paid by someone, you know.

Also, does the taxpayer have a clawback clause? After all, when marriages break up don't they create more unhappiness, more social instability and more emotional mess than a single person falling over at Lavery's on a Friday night? Cameron's policy would actually reward a man who leaves his wife and children and remarries, but not the woman raising the children on her own – how's that for promoting family life.

We all love, er, Love. I love commitment. Love and Commitment. Marriage. Great.

But are they the only abstractions that deserve Government support? I don't know about you, but what about the happy, the perennial optimists, those with a ready quip on their lips and human understanding in their hearts? These selfless individuals give and give and give towards making us all a wee bit happier. Shouldn't they get a few tax crumbs for bolstering the cohesion of society?

Or what about those doing voluntary work – running Brownie packs, visiting the aged, managing charity shops, cleaning up our streets, doing coffee mornings for hospices, jogging against cancer, holding bring and buy sales for the Third World. Don't they deserve a break as well?

We should all be equal in the eyes of God, the law, and even the taxman.

Singletons of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose. Certainly not your Dinners for One.

'We should be equal in eyes of the taxman'

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