The Bachelor’s Lament (Guest Blog Post)
Deaglán de Bréadún
This is a Guest Post by my colleague on the political team here, Mary Minihan. It’s about Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar and his views on the tax treatment of swinging (or not-so-swinging) singletons. Now read on:-Fine Gael’s bachelor boy TD, Leo Varadkar (31), made a surprisingly personal intervention in the Dail on Wednesday, which I’ve reported on in today’s paper under the headline ‘Singles subsidising married’.
Varadkar revealed he was single and lived alone, and said it was unfair that other TDs paid less tax than him because their domestic circumstances were different.
Varadkar tends to shoot from the hip, and his portrayal of some of his fellow TD’s wives as golfing ladies who lunch will no doubt enrage the often neglected female spouses of male deputies. (He didn’t speculate on how husbands of our women TDs might spend their days).
“There would be people in this House for example who have the same income as me who have stay-at-home wives who don’t work, yet they pay less tax than I do because their wife doesn’t work and potentially spends the day on the golf course or eating lunch or whatever,” he said.
“I’ve no objection to that. That’s people’s choice. I do have an objection to the fact that single people have to pay more tax so that other people can have that choice. And I think that’s something that needs to be addressed in our tax system.”
Varadkar had a serious point, however: that the tax system can seem severe on singletons. It’s an area that’s currently being debated by our neighbours in the UK with just months to go to their General Election.
(Didn’t Disraeli say: “No man is regular in his attendance at the House of Commons until he is married.”)
A key Tory pledge is to change the tax system in favour of married couples. The former party leader Iain Duncan Smith insists government can encourage marriage without penalising people who aren’t married.
It’s an emotive issue but something our legislators should reflect on.
Some have done so, most recently when a delegation representing lone parents groups appeared before the Oireachtas committee on social and family affairs last week.
Labour TD Roisin Shortall said the tax and welfare system should be “neutral” in terms of how it affected “people’s life choices”. She added: “This is a very difficult nut to crack”.
Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said lone parents should be supported “absolutely and unconditionally”. However, he said there was no need to “go into denial” about what worked best for children, adding that research pointed to a family headed by “two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage”.
He said: “I feel an obligation to say the State and society cannot be neutral on the question of what family forms are most desirable…one almost needs to be courageous in this day and age to say it.”
But back to Varadkar. He said that, like many single people, he paid his mortgage and utility bills on his own. If he was to marry someone earning less than €25,000, he would be able to share the costs of living and reduce his tax bill by €7,000.
Tax concessions shouldn’t be based on sex, Varadkar insisted.
“They shouldn’t be based on the fact that a man and a woman are having sex and live together. They shouldn’t be based on the fact that two men are having sex and live together, and they shouldn’t be based on the fact that two women are having sex.”
Times are changing in Leinster House.