Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has called on the Government to tackle the unfair and discriminatory treatment that unmarried cohabiting couples receive in the tax and social welfare systems.

The Sinn Féin TD pointed out that if a couple are cohabiting under the current system they cannot claim certain tax credits and share their tax liabilities, however the social welfare system treats them the same as married couples.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Our current tax system discriminates against cohabiting couples who are not married and do not want to marry, but the social welfare system treats them the same as married couples. This is an unfair system and it needs reform.

“According to the Citizens Information Board, choosing to be assessed as a single person when you are married or in a civil partnership is unfavourable. It is the same for cohabiting couples, but under the current system a couple who are not legally married or in a civil partnership have no option but to be assessed as two single people.

“This means they cannot transfer unused tax credits or their standard cut-off points. They cannot claim home carers tax credits and they cannot claim tax for a partner who might be on low pay or out of work.

“A married couple or those in a civil partnership can be financially better off by 20%, a substantial amount in anyone’s estimation. Such a considerable saving is important for a couple who are more than likely caught in the current rental and housing crisis, and like many others, paying a small fortune for accommodation.

“If a partner in a cohabiting relationship gets ill, it falls on the other half in the relationship to nurture and financially provide without any active support or help from the State. If the partner dies and there is a shared property there is a substantial inheritance tax burden to be carried by the surviving partner.

“Their cohabiting status is however means tested and taken into full account by the current social welfare system if a partner is made redundant or in need of state supports and assistance.

“If you are cohabiting and you get sick, an application for a full or doctor only medical card is means tested and your partner’s income and assets will be decisive in whether you get a medical card or not.

“Our current tax system denies cohabiting couples fair treatment, while our social welfare system goes to great lengths to try monitor relationships and cohabiting status of couples. As a legislator I find this demeaning and totally wrong.

“The current system needs radical reform. It is discriminatory against couples and needs a new approach from the Government, but particularly the Ministers for Finance and for Social Protection. They need to collectively work together and come up with common sense and practical solutions that will end this unfair system that impacts so negatively against cohabiting couples.

“We should not have a system that supports one couple and discriminates against another because they have a piece of paper that says they are married or are in a civil partnership.”