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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 29 August, 2014

Shared parenting “penalised” as single parents receive 2014 tax credit certs

Tax credits for single parents are now only available to one parent regardless of custody arrangements.

A HIERARCHY OF parenting has been created by changes to tax credits for single parents according to single-parent support group One Family.

Many single parents who previously received the One Parent Family Tax Credit have seen it disappear from their tax credit certificates for 2014.

In last year’s budget, the credit was replaced by the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit which is now only available to one parent as opposed to two previously. The value of the credit will not change, but the decision to remove it from one parent was attacked by One Family at the time for taking money away from the pot from which parents provide for their children.

Revenue refer to the primary claimant and the secondary claimant, the first being the parent with whom the child lives for either the full year or most of the year and the second being the parent with whom the child spends time and resides for at least 100 days in the year.

The measure however has been criticised for not taking account of separated parents who share custody of children and have an equal role in parenting.

One such parent is engineer Scott McEvoy who has had shared custody of his three children with their mother the the past nine years. He says they have a equal and shared parenting routine and feels that removing the tax credit from him feels like tax office does not respect the decision of the courts system.

“I was reading through my tax credit cert when I got it there and I noticed single parent tax credit was gone. I kind of thought that I remembered reading something about this,” he explains.

So I rang up and I was told that because you’re a man you don’t get it. I kind of thought to myself ‘you can’t say that’ and inquired a bit more but they basically said the same again that you’re a man and you don’t get it. They were quite rude but I’m sure they’re getting questions like this all the time so I just left it.

In cases of shared custody the Revenue Commissioners decide on the parent who receives the credit based on who receives the child benefit payment, this is the mother in the vast majority of cases.

If the parent who is receiving the credit isn’t in employment or can’t avail of it for any particular reason it can be transferred to the other but this is a complicated process.

Stuart Duffin, director of policy at One Family, has described this approach as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

“They’re using the benefit payment as a proxy to decide on who the principal carer is. We don’t like that because again it creates a hierarchy in parenting,”  he says.

One Family have called for a system be introduced where an agreement could be reached to provide and equal credit to both parents in these cases. This something echoed by McEvoy who says that in cases such as his, court documents can clearly show that parenting is being shared.

“It should be done at a case by case basis, all the documentation is there, all it takes is for one department to speak to another.”

Read: Hundreds of separated dads concerned over “unjust” tax credit change >

Read: One-parent families hit by Budget tax changes >

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