Current marriage tax break proposals could be seen as an “empty gesture” and should be paid at a much higher rate, a group of faith leaders and political activists have warned.
In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, politicians have been urged to back the transferable tax allowance as “a sensible first step” to counter the “devastating trend of family breakdown”.
But the leaders, Bishop Nazir-Ali, Lord Singh, director of the network of Sikh organisations, Robert Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots and others, called for all political parties to ensure the tax break is “meaningful” by making it worth more than the “low level” of £150.
The letter said the introduction of the marriage tax break is “long overdue”.
The Conservatives promised to bring in a transferable tax allowance, which would save married couples £150 when one spouse stays at home, in their election manifesto in 2010.
But the proposals have been criticised by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said they are unfair on people who choose not to marry.
Now Chancellor George Osborne has planned to announce it in this year’s Autumn statement.
The letter, also signed by Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation, Nola Leach chief executive of CARE and the Bishop of Chester, highlighted the problems caused by broken marriages.
The letter said: “We believe that marriage is the fundamental building block of human society and provides many tangible and non-tangible benefits to our communities and our children.
“Family breakdown costs the taxpayer an estimated £46 billion a year. It is therefore clearly in the interests of government and the taxpayer to work to counter the devastating trend of family breakdown.”
The letter continued: “This is why we urge all political parties not only to back the new transferable tax allowance, but also to ensure that it cannot be dismissed as an empty gesture, given that it has been set at the low level of £150.
“To be meaningful it must be paid at a higher rate, even if this means a phased introduction or application of other conditions.”
In July, one writer blasted Nick Clegg’s failure to support marriage tax breaks, saying he would change his mind if he visited her local neighbourhood for the day.
Journalist Selina Gray said in a piece for the Daily Mail that Mr Clegg would “witness the devastating effect on people of a society that does not value marriage”.