St Valentine’s Day is probably not a big event in your diary (though your teenager might feel differently). But, frankly, if you are living together in unwedded bliss and your beloved pops the question today, then say yes: if for no other reason than being married means you get tax and benefits breaks which are currently denied to opposite sex cohabiters.
However there could be change afoot. MPs are currently looking at allowing opposite sex cohabiters to have civil partnerships, which would mean they get the same tax and benefits allowances as married couples and single sex cohabiters. According to insurer Royal London, there are 3.3 million cohabiting couples. They say that if opposite sex civil partnerships were allowed then the tax and benefits advantages which are currently available to those married and in single sex civil partnerships and would then be extended to include mixed sex civil partnerships would be:
1. Pensions: if you’re married or in a civil partnership then if your husband/wife/civil partner dies you usually get a pension from their occupational pension scheme. This doesn’t happen if you are a heterosexual couple living together.
2. Income tax: Married couples and civil partners are entitled to a tax allowance worth £230 a year. Again, not for the unwed cohabitees.
3. Bereavement benefits: If you are co-habiting and your partner dies, you don’t get National Insurance bereavement benefits which married couples/ civil partners get.
4. Inheritance tax: If you’re married or in a civil partnership you can pass your wealth to your surviving partner and it won’t be hit by inheritance tax. Also married couples/civil partners can transfer any of the unused inheritance tax band (currently worth £325,000) to the survivor. Cohabiters can’t get these benefits.
There’s also a benefit in state pension but only for those who retired before April 6 2016 and were under the old state pension system. Given that any legislation will take a while to go through (if it does) then there’s still a compelling reason to get married – at least for tax and benefits purposes. However I know several couples who are in happy, long term relationships and have no desire to marry – and good for them. Surely it is totally unfair to deny them the chance to have a civil partnership with the benefits it allows just because they are in heterosexual relationships? Let’s hope the required legislation goes through to right this wrong.
Do you think civil partnerships should be allowed for mixed sex couples? Join the debate on our forum
And see our guide to pensions here