There was some controversy yesterday over the British Government’s intention to make some change to its removal of child benefit from higher rate taxpayers. This measure was manifestly unfair because it meant the benefit would be paid to a couple with two salaries just below the higher-rate tax level but would not be paid to a couple with the same total income but where one of them earned all the money. In other words, it discriminates against couples where one of the two decides to stay at home and devote more attention to the children.
In fact, there is already another way in which a married woman who stays at home with the children is discriminated against. The couple’s total income is taxed far more heavily than it would be if the same amount was earned by them both going out to work. If they both work and get moderate incomes, then they both get the advantage of the personal allowance the the lower rates of income tax. But if one of the two earns the same total amount, he or she will suffer the higher rate of income tax and only benefit from a single personal allowance.
David Cameron has suggested that marriage should be be favoured by government. There is also the suggestion, I suspect, that married women should not be discouraged from staying at home with their children if that is what they want to do. But at present, that is exactly what takes place.
Of course in some countries, such as Sweden, it is considered an article of faith that women should go out to work and should leave the care of their children to others. But in Britain and indeed other parts of the world, it is thought that a child benefits from having a loving parent for most of the time during the early years, at least, and having quite a lot of attention thereafter, too. Of course, one should look at the evidence. The evidence I have seen so far, suggests that children do indeed benefit from being more with a loving parent. It may be true that excellent child care from others causes no harm. But on average, a parent is surely going to take more care of a child that will someone who a) is not the parent and b) has other children to attend to.
I am cautious of the idea that government should favour one model or the other. But at present the British government discriminates against the mother who stays with the children and I suggest that that is wrong.
- Do mothers work so hard partly because of the tax system?
- The heavy British tax on having an old-fashioned kind of family – a sort that is known to be good for children
- Working mothers, lone parents and divorce.
- Children of lone parents are disadvantaged – further evidence
- What is wrong with the government inspecting all home schoolers?