Section 32 of the Finance Act 1988 provides that the income of a woman living with her husband shall not be treated as his income for income tax purposes. It is an important legal landmark for women. Before 1988, a wife’s self-reported income was included with that of her husband for tax purposes automatically. Separate taxation affords wives the option to ignore marriage for tax purposes, and to be assessed for tax separately.
It was introduced in 1988 by Nigel Lawson, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, for reasons related to the social advantages that would be achieved by encouraging women’s fiscal independence. It was a lobbying victory of the UK’s Women Budget Group; and, indeed, its introduction in 1988 was in many ways a feminist victory.
In addition to the financial independence for women it fostered, separate taxation of married couples was heralded for the fiscal privacy now afforded to women.
The full version of this landmark is written by Ann Mumford.
Sisterhood and After Research Team, ‘The Impact of Legislation on Women’s Lives’ (British Library, 8 March 2013) https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/articles/the-impact-of-legislation-on-womens-lives