Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Social Welfare Code
Question 648: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to an anomaly that exists whereby an unmarried couple are assessed as a couple for the purposes of social welfare but are not recognised as a couple for the purposes of Revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48091/10]
It is understood that this question relates to the treatment of cohabiting couples in the social welfare and tax systems. These systems have evolved over time and in response to a variety of factors, including constitutional imperatives as interpreted by the courts, changing social trends and EU Directives. The social welfare code recognises the couple status of co-habiting couples and treats married and co-habiting couples in a similar manner. The EEC Equality Directive 79/9 and the subsequent Supreme Court case (Hyland v. Minister for Social Welfare, 1989) led to the change in the treatment of non-married cohabiting couples in the social welfare code. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the total income a married couple received in social welfare benefits to be less than the couple would have received if they were unmarried and cohabiting. The income tax arrangements and subsequent legislation for cohabiting couples are matters for the Minister for Finance.