30 May 2019

Government 'double-counting' blunder means take up of marriage tax break far lower than previously claimed by Ministers

4 min read

Steve Webb
Royal London



Revisions to official statistics published today by HMRC show that far fewer people than previously thought are benefiting from the special income tax allowance for married couples. This time last year, Treasury ministers boasted that 3 million couples were benefiting from the tax break with another million yet to claim:


But today’s figures show that fewer than two million are actually claiming:


Explaining the changes, HMRC admit that there has previously been double-counting in the figures because people can backdate their claims for previous years. In the words of HMRC:

“The original estimates included multiple counts for those individuals making backdated claims for previous years as well as claims for that year” (page 6)

Commenting, Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London said:

“It is shocking that HMRC have got these figures so badly wrong. This time last year, Ministers were boasting that three million couples were benefiting from this tax break. Now it turns out that fewer than two million are actually getting help, and that more than half of those who are entitled are missing out. HMRC urgently needs to do more to alert families who could benefit so that everyone who is entitled to help receives it”.

Notes to editors:

The rules around the Marriage Allowance are here. The system works for couples where one partner is a basic rate taxpayer and the other is a non-taxpayer. The lower earner can transfer up to 10% of their unused personal allowance to the higher earner. At current rates, this is a transfer of up to £1,250. With a basic rate of tax of 20%, this saves the higher earner £250. Claims can still be made back to the date when the allowance was introduced in 2015 and can even be made posthumously.

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