"Outdated” tax return rules meaning wives need their husband's permission to discuss tax affairs could soon be replaced by an 'opt-out' consent system - but for one Deputy, this is still "degrading and discriminatory."
The Minister and Assistant Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputies Susie Pinel and Lindsay Ash, are proposing an important to introduce a new principle of presumed consent for married women in relation to their tax affairs in the 2019 Budget.
The proposed change means that the Taxes Office would presume that a husband has consented to the discussion of the couple’s personal tax affairs with his wife, unless he has explicitly informed the Taxes Office to the contrary. The change would also apply to both same-sex marriages and civil partnerships, but would not include couples who are divorced, separated or have opted for separate assessments.
It forms part of a wider reform of personal income tax and the States will soon launch an extensive island-wide consultation to obtain public feedback on the current personal tax regime.
Pictured: Deputies Susie Pinel and Lindsay, the Minister and Assistant Minister for Treasury and Resources, have proposed presumed consent as part of the 2019 Budget.
The idea of the presumed consent was initially suggested by Deputy Louise Doublet, who has been campaigning for change on the issue. "This is the way our law has been for years and it has been unacceptable for a long, long time," she explained.
With a review of how the tax system works underway, Deputy Doublet said that her campaign was not met with huge amounts of interest. However, she pushed for something to be done before the consultation, suggesting the idea of presumed consent to replace the tick-box exercise currently in place, as "it is a lot more dignified."
However, she told Express that the change brought by the Treasury Minister does not go far enough. Deputy Doublet explained that in the case of same sex couples, tax is administered by looking at who is older. "I don't see why we couldn't do this for all couples. There needs to be more thought given to the social impact of these rules," she said, adding that this system was nonetheless still "not ideal" and that some couples are offended by it.
Pictured: Deputy Doublet is encouraging islanders to share their views on the way taxes are administered.
In her view, the solution to the "difficult question" of what the final system should look like should be answered by the public. She is encouraging islanders to take part in the consultation and share their views. "It has to come from the public," Deputy Doublet said, adding that whichever way the public wants to be taxed, "we can't treat women as second-class citizens."
Islanders who feel strongly about the subject should also contact the Treasury Minister and all States Members. "There are tweaks that can be made for the tax system to be less degrading and discriminatory. This is not a feminist issue - this is an issue of equality that men and women are concerned about."
Commenting on the proposed interim measure, Assistant Minister Deputy Lindsay Ash said: "We recognise that the current rules around ‘opt in’ are completely outdated in a modern society," he added. "If passed by the States Assembly, this change marks a significant first step towards a fundamental reform of personal income tax. This is just a starting point and we hope that the results of the wider consultation will help shape a fairer and clearer personal tax regime for the future.”
"Presumed consent" will be debated as part of the 2019 Budget on 4 December.
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