For Richer For Poorer

A religious think-tank has criticised the Ombudsman for pointing out that Irish tax laws discriminate against unmarried couples.

The Iona Institute describes itself as ‘a pro-religion and pro-marriage organisation’.

Institute director Davis Quinn said it would be a ‘serious mistake’ to treat married and unmarried couples in the same way.

He went on to add that ‘for the sake of children we need to encourage marriage by providing incentives to get married. In turn, that means giving it advantageous treatment in the tax and welfare codes.’

The director’s concern about the sanctity of marriage misses the point though.

As Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly pointed out, when it comes to social welfare payments, unmarried couples are treated the same as married couples.

And the Ombudsman didn’t say cohabiting couples should be treated as married. She just pointed to the anomaly, and suggested that legislators might want to pick a team when it came to how they treated unmarried couples.

Strangely, treating couples as married when they apply for social welfare has the same effect in one respect as treating them as unmarried when assessing income tax.

In both cases, the decision saves the government money.

In other words, the government serves Mammom.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.