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Govt debacle means fewer people benefit from the marriage tax break

Wedding cake spouses turning their backs to each other for emerging problemsFewer people than previously thought are making use of the marriage allowance, which lets couples where one partner is a basic rate taxpayer and the other is a non-taxpayer claim a tax break.

This is due to a governments’ mistake in counting the claims.

Statistics published by Treasury last year showed that three million couples were benefiting from the tax break with another million yet to claim. But revisions to official statistics published today by HM Revenue & Customs showed that fewer than two million are actually claiming.

Explaining the changes, HMRC admitted that there has previously been double-counting in the figures as people can backdate their claims for previous years. 

Steve Webb: Pension and tax savings clients may be missing out on

In an update HMRC says: “The original estimates included multiple counts for those individuals making backdated claims for previous years as well as claims for that year.”

Royal London director of policy Steve Webb comments: “It is shocking that HMRC have got these figures so badly wrong. This time last year, ministers were boasting that three million couples were benefiting from this tax break.

“Now it turns out that fewer than two million are actual getting help, and that more than half of those who are entitled are missing out. HMRC urgently needs to do more to alert families who could benefit so that everyone who is entitled to help receives it.”

Ian Browne: Making the most of the marriage allowance in retirement plans

The rules allow the lower earner to transfer up to 10 per cent of their unused personal allowance to the higher earner. At current rates, this is a transfer of up to £1,250.

With a basic rate of tax of 20 per cent, this saves the higher earner £250.


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  1. A pale shadow of the real marriage tax break up to 5th April 1968, when a husband could get a full years tax rebate the nearer to April 5th he got married. Then on top of that there was an ongoing tax allowance on the basis that wives were an expense.

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