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Indirect discrimination against men over child tax credit is justified

System directing funds at household where child principally lives deemed most effective

18 May 2012

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The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the current system of child tax credits does indirectly discriminate against men but the discrimination is justified.

Child tax credit is paid under the Tax Credits Act 2002 to the person having the ‘main responsibility’ for the child, whether or not the responsibility is shared.

The Supreme Court heard that Mr Humphreys looked after his young son and daughter for three weekends out of four, and for half the school holidays.

Delivering the leading judgment in Humphreys v HMRC [2012] UKSC 18, Lady Hale said: “If funds are targeted at one household, it is likely that a child living in that household will be better off than he or she would be if the funds are split between two households with modest means.

“The state is, in my view, entitled to conclude that it will deliver support for children in the most effective manner, that is, to the one household where the child principally lives.

“This will mean that that household is better equipped to meet the child’s needs. It also happens to be a great deal simpler and less expensive to administer, thus maximising the amount available for distribution to families in this way.”

Lady Hale said it was reasonable for the government to regard the way in which it delivered support for children as a separate question from the way in which children spend their time.

“The arrangements which separated parents make for their children are infinitely various and variable,” she said.

“They depend upon a multitude of factors, such as the children’s ages and preferences, where they go to school, how close the parents live to one another, and what the parents can afford.”

Lady Hale dismissed the father’s appeal. Lords Walker, Clarke, Wilson and Reed agreed.

Categorised in:

Children Local government