Plans for tax breaks for married couples are set to be brought forward in a move seen as an attempt to placate restless Conservative backbench MPs.
The scheme could be introduced as early as the autumn and will allow out-of-work wives and husbands to transfer part of their tax-free allowance to their partners.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been under pressure to bring in the changes from members of his own party, but it is an issue likely to expose disagreements in the coalition. Liberal Democrats have a specific opt-out on the issue. Labour has already stated its opposition the idea.
Mr Cameron said: “The point is that we are going to be putting in place the marriage tax proposal in law. We will be announcing plans for that in this parliament, quite shortly in fact.”
Former Conservative minister Tim Loughton had moved to force a Commons vote on the issue with backbenchers feeling that work on the policy was moving too slowly. Mr Cameron said MPs should “let the government get on with it”.
The Tories promised a £150 tax break to married couples at the last general election, but, in a sign of how the issue could cause divisions in the coalition government, the proposal was ridiculed by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as “patronising drivel that belong in the Edwardian age”.
Julianne Marriott, director of the Don’t Judge My Family campaign opposed to marriage being written into tax laws, said: “Last week the Government announced £11.5 billion of cuts but this week they can find half a billion pounds for a marriage tax allowance to promote their fantasy 50s family, that's a married couple with a breadwinner and a homemaker. It's out of step with modern families who come in all shapes and sizes and discriminates against families with single parents, widows and widowers, couples who both work and couples who chose not to marry. This marriage tax announcement isn't about keeping families together; it's about keeping the Tory party together."
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