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Written Answers. - Tax Liability of Unmarried Couples.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 46. Mr. J. Walsh Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh  asked the Minister for Finance Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the plans, if any, he has to change the current tax and social welfare treatment of unmarried couples living together as man and wife. [9020/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn While the social welfare treatment of married and cohabiting couples, under social assistance schemes, is primarily a matter for the Minister for Social Welfare, it appears that the Supreme Court held in the Hyland case in 1989 that it was unconstitutional for the relevant social welfare provision to treat a married couple living together less favourably than a (unmarried) cohabiting couple. This judgment has been given effect by treating cohabiting couples in the same way as married couples for social welfare purposes.

In relation to taxation, there are no special income tax allowances for unmarried couples living together. In this context, I would point out that tax law follows the general law relating to marriage. The basis on which the married person's tax free allowance (and double rate bands) is given derives from the Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. the Attorney General (1980) which held that it was contrary to the Constitution for a married couple to pay more tax than two single people living together.

I am conscious of the difficulties which can arise for cohabiting couples in certain circumstances. The Expert Working Group on the Integration of the Tax and Social Welfare Systems has been looking at, inter alia, the position of cohabiting couples generally. The group will be reporting shortly, and I will carefully consider the group's recommendations.

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