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Four Live >> Expert Advice 

Single or Married - What are the Benefits?

Welfare expert Teresa Mc Court is in studio to tell us about the benefits of being single or married this Valentine's day.

When are we better off married?

- Paying tax - Unmarried couples are treated as single for tax purposes.

- Social welfare ie; On your partner's death

- If you have children and you seperate

Paying tax

If you get married or enter into a civil partnership, both you and your spouse or civil partner continue to be treated as single people for tax purposes in that year. If, however, the tax you pay as two single people is greater than the tax that would be payable if you were taxed as a married couple or civil partners, you can claim the difference. (In other words, you can claim a tax refund). Refunds are only due from the date of marriage and will be calculated after the following 31 December. So, for example, if you get married in 2011, any tax refund due to you will be calculated after 31 December 2011.

Refunds are normally only due where a couple are taxed at different rates and one spouse/civil partner could benefit from the unused standard rate cut-off point or for some of the unused tax credits of the other spouse/civil partner.

Point: This is also the case if one person loses their job the working person can claim the tax credits for the non working spouse. This does not happen if you are co-habiting.

When you get married or register a civil partnership therefore, it is important to advise the tax office of the date of your marriage or registration of your civil partnership. You will also need to quote your own and your spouse/civil partner's

Joint assessment
The joint assessment (or "aggregation") option is usually the best basis of assessment for a married couple or civil partners. This option is automatically given by the tax office when you advise them of your marriage or civil partnership but this does not prevent you from choosing any of the options. Under this option, the tax credits and standard rate cut-off point can be allocated between spouses to suit their own circumstances.

Social Welfare

Marital status and social welfare entitlements
In certain situations, married couples may be entitled to certain social welfare benefits or allowances not available to unmarried people.

- You can only claim Widow's/Widower's Pension if your husband/wife dies.

- You will not be entitled to the Widowed parent grant if you have children and are not married. This grant is a once-off payment of €6,000.

Cohabiting couples

Rights of cohabiting couples

Cohabitants in Ireland do not possess the same rights and obligations as married couples or civil partnerships

Example: Buying a home together

In Ireland, joint ownership of property for cohabiting couples can be held in one of two ways;

- Joint tenancy
- Tenancy in common

Considering which is the best option for you, means being prepared for what you wish to happen in the event of the death of either partner, or the break-up of the relationship.

Inheritance rights of cohabiting couples
Cohabiting couples in Ireland have no automatic right of inheritance on the death of either partner.

Life insurance, pensions and civil status in Ireland
Your civil status in Ireland may make some differences to your life insurance or pension entitlements.

Where a policy specifies that only a spouse may benefit, your cohabiting partner will not have any entitlements. Likewise, you may be entitled to a supplement to your pension in respect of a spouse/civil partner, but not in respect of a cohabitee. Check with your insurer or the trustees of your pension if you want to be sure about the stipulations of your particular policy. If you are not married, you should check if anything can be changed to allow your partner entitlements that he/she would not otherwise have.

Legal guardianship and cohabiting couples
For children born outside of marriage in Ireland, only the mother has automatic rights to guardianship. (Even though a father's name may be registered on the child's birth certificate, this does not give him any guardianship rights in respect of his child).

Adoption and cohabiting couples

Unmarried couples may not jointly adopt a child. A joint adoption by a couple is only possible where that couple is married and living together. This rule prevents an unmarried couple from jointly adopting a child even where one of the parties is the biological or legal parent of the child. There are no proposals to change adoption law in Ireland to permit adoption by unmarried couples. Find out the legal reasons for this and whether there are any exceptions.

More information on all of the above on www.citizensinformation.ie

The advantages of being single

If you have a child:

- One parent family payment

- Double tax credits if you are working

- Living alone allowance if you are over 66

Social Welfare treat unmarried couples the same as a married couple. Revenue do not. A co-habiting couple are treated as single people for tax purposes.