Can the Child Benefit Cuts be challenged under EU Law?

(28 Posts)
CountessCaroline Fri 04-Jan-13 21:30:04

Could Mumsnet, as an organisation, challenge the Child Benefit cuts as discriminatory under EU Law?

niceguy2 Sat 05-Jan-13 10:26:22

Who are the cuts discriminating against?

rechargemybatteries Sat 05-Jan-13 10:28:44

Surely the provision of welfare benefits comes under the margin of appreciation?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 05-Jan-13 10:56:51

Conditional benefits such as those which are income-related or age-related aren't discriminatory.

PolkadotCircus Sat 05-Jan-13 19:51:59

But they're discriminating against 1 income families.

2 x families on 60k(2 on 30k,1 on 60k)only the 1 income family loses it,that surely is discrimination.

Meglet Sat 05-Jan-13 19:56:58

They're discriminatng against single parents for a start.

rechargemybatteries Sat 05-Jan-13 19:59:12

So are you suggesting a challenge under Article 8 of the ECHR? If you look at this handbook produced by the echr echr.coe.int/NR/rdonlyres/77A6BD48-CD95-4CFF-BAB4-ECB974C5BD15/0/DG2ENHRHAND012003.pdf there is a discussion on the margin of appreciation and it's justification on "public interest" grounds and that varying customs policies and practice between the contracting states to the ECHR can be used to justify a margin of appreciation.

Viviennemary Sat 05-Jan-13 20:01:25

I can see why people are annoyed about this. But on the other hand I couldn't get too worried about people on £50K a year losing welfare hand outs. If they are trying to reduce the welfare bill in general.

rechargemybatteries Sat 05-Jan-13 20:06:42

Wouldn't the government have to have a declaration of compatibility in order to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 06-Jan-13 09:48:14

"2 x families on 60k(2 on 30k,1 on 60k)only the 1 income family loses it,that surely is discrimination."

That's just a mathematical 'cliff' that all tax thresholds create. If you do the maths on the tax and NI paid by two individuals earning £30k vs one individual earning £60k the combination of personal allowances and tax rate thresholds means the £60k earner is paying £18,421/year whereas the two £30k earners are only paying £14,134 between them. It's why a lot of us champion flat tax rates.

Of course it people do get up petitions and challenge the cut the strictly fairest thing for the government to do would be to withdraw the benefit completely and beef up the CTC system instead. Not sure that's the intention.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 09:51:01

It is sexual discrimination on the part of women. According to govt statistics 95% of single parents are women and this policy adversely affects single parents and therefore indirect discrimination. I have suggested a compromise to the govt which allows those who claim single persons council tax subsidy a higher threshold so no means testing required but they have ignored that and therefore ripe for challenge on sex discrimination basis.

rechargemybatteries Sun 06-Jan-13 09:56:35

If you are considering a discrimination claim under ECHR rules that would fall under Article 14 of the ECHR which is not a free standing right in the UK as the UK has not ratified Protocol 14. So discrimination would need to be argued in conjunction with another right, such as Article 8

www.echr.coe.int/NR/rdonlyres/DACA17B3-921E-4C7C-A2EE-3CDB68B0133E/0/ENG_FRA_CASE_LAW_HANDBOOK_01.pdf

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 06-Jan-13 10:03:47

95% of single parents may be women but how many of those women are earning more than £60k? What proportion of taxpayers earning over £60k are male? For it to be true sex discrimination the new rule would have to apply solely to women. I don't think the argument holds therefore.

rechargemybatteries Sun 06-Jan-13 10:05:34

Not necessarily CognitoErgoSometimes, if I read the ECHR provisions correctly there could be indirect discrimination - where the measure disproportionately affects one section of society?

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 10:05:42

Thanks Recharge. This policy is very unfair on single parents. The govt encourage single parents to work and then penalise them when they do.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 10:07:02

We need stats on higher earning women but I would suggest there are a lot more than you believe especially in London.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 10:10:18

This policy does not adversely affect men just because in a lot of couples the male is the high earner. Technically the only party that has no choice in the matter is a single parent.

rechargemybatteries Sun 06-Jan-13 10:17:58

Losingtrust - have pm'd you

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 06-Jan-13 10:48:02

"Technically" the parties that have no choice in the matter are high-earning parents, whether single or in a couple. All of them will end up paying more in tax. None of them have a choice about paying it or not. Therefore no discrimination.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 10:55:15

Company directors who employ their spouse have the option of adjusting their income. Non-working spouse's can get a job to compensate for their loss off child benefit. In many cases those just above the threshold who have a partner that also works can choose to pension some if their income to go below the threshold. Higher paid partners in non-married couples may not be picked up by the system. On every single case the higher earner single parent will be caught. As the only person of adult age in a household a single parent would have less options to adjust their income.

niceguy2 Sun 06-Jan-13 12:08:37

According to govt statistics 95% of single parents are women and this policy adversely affects single parents

It's a bit of a stretch. If you extend that same logic then most high earners are men and therefore the 50% tax rate was also discriminatory against them.

Don't get me wrong, I think the changes are stupid and badly thought through. But it doesn't mean they are discriminating against women. The people they are discriminating against are those who are fortunate enough to earn a decent income but not enough to truly not miss it.

The bizarre thing is that in many households now we have a situation where one person can be taxed more because of the actions of another. So for example, my DP could continue claiming child benefit. I can't stop her. We're not married and she's not a high earner. But then HMRC will seek to recover the benefit paid to her from me. Except like many couples we could have completely separate finances. And individual taxation is something recognised by HMRC.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 12:39:01

Child tax credits are already done on the basis of joint income.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 06-Jan-13 12:46:41

"On every single case the higher earner single parent will be caught"

I happen to be a high-earning single parent so I know that the options open to people like me are more limited than couples and the cost of living can be higher. I have to pay more when I go on holiday. I don't qualify for the family discount at attractions. There are lots of ways in which being a single person is a disadvantage. However, the tax rules apply the same to me as they do to any other individual so I don't accept that I am being discriminated against by HMRC

Viviennemary Sun 06-Jan-13 12:47:49

I saw on the news this morning the Government seems quite smug that they have got away with this as nobody has taken to the streets to protest. However, maybe it could be challenged on the basis that other benefits are calculated on joint household income.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 12:49:58

This Government have also reduced the 50% and personally although I don't fall into this bracket it should just be 40% but can see your argument that more men would fall into that category. However having done a benefits calculator today the difference between a single parent on benefits and one earning £55k is not that great (plus this ignores free prescriptions, free school meals, free school transport, lack of childcare costs etc) and for me this really is another disincentive for single parents to get decent jobs when they are going to be taxed at effectively 60% for anything between £50 to £60k so I would agree it is a very badly thought out policy but they know they can get away with it because they know that anyone who complains will be seen as greedy even though a family with two national average earners will actually have a higher net income than one high earner between £50 and £60k earner who on their own would pay more tax than the two average earners together. What amazes me is that without pensioners these are the people most likely to have voted Tories. One reason why pensioner benefits will never be touched.

losingtrust Sun 06-Jan-13 13:05:07

Personally I actually think it is too late to challenge now as the proposals have been in for a long time now. There will be an awful lot of extra bonus pension sacrifices come March to bring people just below the threshold.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 06-Jan-13 13:21:23

"his really is another disincentive for single parents to get decent jobs"

Not all us single parents find freebies & handouts motivating hmm because they don't represent security. Some of us have enough pride in ourselves to take on the better jobs in spite of it meaning we lose out on various benefits or pay more tax or fork out for childcare and school meals etc. Because what you earn - unless you lose your job - cannot be taken away from you. Personally, I prefer it that way.

niceguy2 Sun 06-Jan-13 15:55:44

I have a very good friend who is a single mum. Back when she was with her husband they had very little money. Every penny was watched. They broke up and now she's significantly better off on her own than she was with him.

They're both still doing the same job. She's working 3 days part time and the rest is made up of tax credits and maintenance. He's not a big earner so it's not like she gets loads of maintenance.

She's even managed to take on the mortgage by finding a company which would take her tax credits into account. Otherwise she could have moved into rented and probably claimed HB.

To me there is something fundamentally wrong with a system where a household with one adult can be left significantly better off on their own working part time hours than two adults, with one full time and one part time.

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