I move amendment No. 1:
In page 8, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:
"Notwithstanding anything contained in the Tax Acts, Part II of the Table to section 2 of the Finance Act, 1986 (inserted by this section) shall apply to persons with dependents who are widows, widowers or single parents."
This amendment, not having been reached on Committee Stage, is brought forward on Report Stage because it relates to a very important matter that I have raised on each Finance Bill for a number of years past. It is that widows, widowers and single parents should have the same benefits with regard to tax allowances as married people and should be regarded as married persons for the purposes of the Finance Bill. Such people, particularly those with dependants, have all the same problems as married couples. The only difference is having one less mouth to feed. They have the same problems with housing, mortgages, rents, children to feed, cloth, educate, bring to the hospital or doctor and so forth, yet they have not the appropriate tax allowance. Every time I raised this matter it was agreed by Ministers and other Deputies in the Dáil that there was a great injustice in this respect. There is an even greater problem for widows, widowers and single parents than for married couples in that the single parent will have to get a job to keep the family and, if that is so, somebody must be hired to mind the children who are left at home. These people have far more expenses than have married couples in looking after their dependants, yet our tax system never acknowledges this.
In 1986 Deputy Bruton was Minister for Finance and his explanation, presumably that of the Department of Finance, for not allowing for justice in the case to widows, widowers and single parents was that to do so would bring about a whole series of problems, with married couples claiming, individually and so forth. In fact, the major obstacle to giving justice to these people, according to Deputy Bruton at that time, was that if widows, widowers or single parents met somebdy else and wanted to get married, this tax system would discourage them from doing so, would encourage them to live together rather than remarry. That seemed to be a terrible problem for Minister Bruton. I could not follow that. It is some kind of moral dilemma which faces Ministers for Finance so that they cannot give justice to those single parents who are living singly with their dependants, not getting married, but trying to eke out their existence and help their children. They are to be denied what every Minister has acknowledged as being just because of the possibility that some widow, widower or single parent would be discouraged from marrying because of having this tax benefit to which only one partner would be entitled if they were married.
I had a lengthy argument with Deputy Bruton a couple of years back on this issue and he got no place on it because the justice of the case of widows, widowers and single parents was admitted, but they were to continue to be penalised most unjustly because of a possibility that somebody else might be prevented from getting married and might start living together. What a dreadful possibility for a Minister for Finance to face — that he would be responsible for people living together and not marrying because of the tax system that he introduced. This seemed to be the tenor of the argument.
At that time, I would remind the Minister for Finance, I got great support from Deputy Haughey, now Taoiseach. He came to my assistance saying that he felt there was a grave injustice being done to widows, widowers and single parents, that the tax system was wrong and should be altered. While there may be difficulties that one would see now, surely Ministers and Department of Finance officials, who have achieved such extraordinary contortions in the tax system in massive, complicated areas with their great ingenuity, could devise a system whereby these people would get this tax allowance while they remain single but would lose it if they married or lived with somebody else. Unmarried mothers lose their allowance if they live with somebody else. Surely Ministers and officials can find their way round this possibility of fiddling and give justice now to these people. Surely they can devise a system to prevent people from getting the allowance if they get married or live together. I am talking about those who are now widows or widowers who are not living with anybody else and have no intention of doing so, who are just trying to live out their lives but are being penalised.
The question of deserted wives comes into this, but deserted husbands are in an even worse position because they are not recognised at all in the social welfare or tax allowance systems as having any rights or being in a situation different from when they were married. I do not want to go into that area because that is a mixture of tax, social welfare and everything else. I am simply taking the case of widowers and single parents trying to bring up their children while having to work and pay somebody to look after the children along with paying for education, clothing, mortgage, rent and so on, without the appropriate married person's tax-allowance. The purpose of this amendment is to address that problem.