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Tories offer '£150-a-year' marriage tax break

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 09 April 2010

The Conservatives are preparing to unveil plans for a tax break for married couples, but Channel 4 News understands it will not be designed to encourage mothers to stay at home.

Marriage tax breaks (Credit: Getty)

Conservative leader David Cameron had pledged to implement a marriage tax break during the party's 2005 leadership contest.

The party's former leader Iain Duncan Smith had urged Mr Cameron to spend £600m on a tax allowance for couples with children aged three and under.

He suggested the tax break, worth around £1000 a year per couple, should be transferable, to help encourage mothers to stay at home with their children.

Instead the Conservatives are likely to offer a £150-a-year tax break for basic rate couples who earn less than £44,000 a year, paid for by a levy on wholesale bank lending.

The cost is estimated at £550m.

Four million married couples would benefit from the plans from next April.

One partner would be able to transfer £750 in their tax allowance to the other, to minimise their tax bill.

The proposal would also be available for couples in a civil partnership.

Mr Cameron told Channel 4 News: "I think it important that we recognise both marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system.

"I have said that is a commitment we are going to make for the parliament."

But Labour has previously attacked a marriage tax break as a form of "social engineering" that would punish many good unmarried parents and stigmatise their children.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has branded it an unfair "bribe", pointing out that it could penalise abandoned women while helping their remarried ex-husbands. 

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