Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (109)

Catherine Murphy


109. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to include non-married couples as being eligible for income tax credits (details supplied); the reason non-married cohabiting couples with and without children are excluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36967/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The basis for the current tax treatment of married couples derives from the Supreme Court decision in Murphy vs. Attorney General (1980). This decision was based on Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution where the State pledges to protect the institution of marriage. The decision held that it was contrary to the Constitution for a married couple, both of whom are working, to pay more tax than two single people living together and having the same income. 

The treatment of cohabiting couples for the purposes of social welfare is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ms Regina Doherty, T.D. .  However, it is also based on the principle that married couples should not be treated less favourably than cohabiting couples. This was given a constitutional underpinning following the Supreme Court decision in Hyland v Minister for Social Welfare (1989) which 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 unmarried and cohabiting.

The Single Person Child Carer Credit (SPCCC) is intended to support the labour market participation of single and widowed parents.  It is available to the primary claimant, who is the individual with whom the child resides for the whole or greater part of the year.  The primary claimant must be either the child's parent or the individual who has custody of the child and who maintains the child at his or her own expense for the whole or the greater part of the year.

Where the child's primary carer is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting they are not entitled to the SPCCC, on the basis that the relevant child is not, in the main, being cared for by a single person, and therefore no credit is available. 

Issues concerning this credit are outlined in detail in the review of the SPCCC conducted by the Department of Finance in 2015 contained in the Report on Tax Expenditures, available online at