By Jenny Allen
What would you do with the £550 million the marriage tax allowance will cost?
At Don't Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance, we think this is a colossal waste of money. It's an expensive 'signal' at a time when the government should be helping families, not judging them.
The government proposals are intended to send a signal about marriage by giving a tax break worth £150 to married couples with a breadwinner and a homemaker. We believe the government has no right to use the tax system to judge how we live our lives. This signal is going to cost us over half a billion pounds a year.
And because it's only payable to a third of married couples, it discriminates against many modern families who come in all shapes and sizes, including families with single parents, widows and widowers, couples who both work and couples who chose not to marry.
We don't believe we are alone in opposing the marriage tax allowance. A spokesperson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) recently described the tax break as being of 'symbolic value' only. They added that the amount received would not be a "massive incentive" to marry and that "our evidence suggests that even if it did encourage people to get married, it wouldn't necessarily have a dramatic effect on children's outcomes".
Similarly a Demos study found that the tax allowance would be a "weak tool" to help children.
We're sure the money earmarked for a marriage tax break could be better spent. So today we have launched a call for evidence asking charities, think tanks, academics and the public for alternatives. We want ideas costing £550m (or less) which would support families, sustain relationships or give children the best start in life. We will showcase the alternative proposals in October in an attempt to persuade the government not to introduce the tax breaks in the autumn statement.
The call for evidence has only been open a few hours and already we have received a range of thoughtful suggestions from the public. These include ideas focused on supporting children, through the up-rating of child benefit, investment in Sure Start and widened free provision of nursery places. Extra help for the parents of disabled children was also identified.
Older people, who may be caring for elderly relatives as well as children and/or grandchildren, were highlighted as a group who might benefit from additional support. These are often unseen carers who might be struggling to balance their caring responsibilities alongside employment and other life pressures.
Another respondent felt that the transfer of unused tax allowances shouldn't be restricted to marriage but opened up to any nominated recipient.
And the challenges facing those who have lost a partner, including issues around reduced benefits and entitlements, were highlighted as a particular unfairness given the focus on marriage in the government‘s proposals.
These are just a few of the ideas and suggestions we have already received. We look forward to receiving many more. We believe that there are far more effective ways of using the money earmarked for marriage tax breaks to support families, sustain relationships or give children the best start in life.
We would like to hear from you too. Full details of the call for evidence is available on our website at www.dontjudge.org.uk/call-for-evidence. The deadline for responses is Friday 18th October 2013.
Jenny Allen is a cohabiting mum of two and a member of the Don't Judge My Family campaign. She has a background in housing and homelessness and is currently on maternity leave with her second child.
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