I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that married persons may choose from a number of options — joint assessment, separate assessment or separate treatment — the method of taxation that best suits their circumstances. Under joint assessment, tax law provides that one of the spouses is responsible for fulfilling the legal tax obligations of the couple and this is why tax documentation relating to the couple's tax obligations issues to that spouse. This spouse is known as the "assessable spouse". The other spouse is known as the "non-assessable spouse".
A married couple jointly assessed for tax purposes may, subject to certain time limits in relation to a tax year, jointly elect as to which spouse is to be the "assessable spouse". In the absence of any such election, one spouse is deemed to be the "assessable spouse".
However, not all tax documentation issues to the "assessable spouse". An example of where tax documentation may issue to the "non-assessable spouse" is the issue of a PAYE certificate of tax credits relating to that spouse. A further example is the issue of a tax refund cheque where that refund belongs clearly to the "non-assessable spouse".
The current system has the advantage that the main tax correspondence issues to just one person. In addition, it provides clarity as to who is responsible for fulfilling the legal tax obligations of the couple.
I am reluctant to put in place any legislative changes that might run the risk of weakening, or introducing ambiguity into, the legal tax obligations of married couples under joint assessment. That said, I am asking the Revenue Commissioners to consider whether it would be feasible to put administrative arrangements in place which recognise the position of both spouses in joint assessment cases.