The social welfare code recognises the couple status of co-habiting couples and treats married and co-habiting couples in a similar manner. The EEC Equality Directive 79/9 and the subsequent Supreme Court case (Hyland v Minister for Social Welfare, 1989) led to the change in treatment of non-married cohabiting couples in the social welfare code. The Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the total income a married couple received in social welfare benefits to be less than the couple would have received if they were cohabiting. Accordingly, couples who are married and cohabiting are treated identically to couples who are cohabiting but not married for social welfare purposes since the Social Welfare Act No 2, 1989.
The tax treatment of married and cohabiting couples is a matter for the Minister for Finance.