Mon | Jun 24, 2019

Offer tax benefits to married couples, economist pitches

Published:Tuesday | January 29, 2019 | 12:14 AM

Economist Peter-John Gordon has pitched tax relief as the most practical means of state incentive for marriage but has indicated that it would come with drawbacks.

The University of the West Indies lecturer said that the shrinking of the personal income tax net meant that thousands of people were already beneficiaries in 2017.

“What happens if you fall below the threshold where you’re not in an income bracket that you’ll be paying tax, then you couldn’t incentivise it that way?

“It can be done, but another question, though, is, should it be done? I understand the argument of a stable union, that there are benefits to that for child rearing, etc, but I don’t know what the consensus in the society is around something like that,” Gordon added.

He was responding to government senator Ransford Braham’s State of the Nation Debate proposal that the State use moral suasion to encourage Jamaicans to tie the knot. Speaking afterwards with The Gleaner, he suggested preferential access to benefits from the National Housing Trust and other government agencies as incentives for taking the plunge. Braham argued that married families provide more stable and financially viable relationships.

Braham asserted that the family model in Jamaica was “not in the best of shape” and that there was an economic benefit to having stable families.

“The difficulty is that there is a significant portion of the population who don’t pay income tax, and so to give a tax relief if you are married would exclude them, and these are among the poorer people,” he reasoned.

Couples agree

Meanwhile, soon-to-be-wed couples in attendance at the Helen G Jamaica Bridal Expo at Devon House on Sunday couldn’t agree more.

Thirty-three-year-old Cameal Stewart, who is due to wed in August, welcomed Braham’s proposal and its prospects for the promotion of marriage and family values.

“Family values are deteriorating in Jamaica, and we want to uplift them. So persons getting married and staying together getting more incentives would be awesome, and I agree with it,” said Stewart, further indicating that added health benefits could also serve as incentives.

Her partner, 33-year-old Curtis Brooks, was also quick to voice his approval for a windfall of benefits.

“Solid families build the nation, and two [parents] is definitely better than one, so I would definitely support any initiative to incentivise marriage such as housing benefits or tax returns, etc,” he reasoned.

For 26-year-old Kaylia Morgan, who is set to marry in October, the country would be far better off socio-economically if the nuclear family structure was made more attractive.

“Better housing, better rates when doing business, whatever it is, all these incentives could help to promote better family structures in our country and an overall better nation,” she contended.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com