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To marry or not to marry? In the UK, it’s a tax question!

To marry or not to marry? In the UK, it’s a tax question!

Recently, we looked at the Marriage Allowance, and it got us thinking about the 3.3 million couples who choose to cohabit rather than marry and so can’t claim this allowance even if they were eligible. This article shows you just what tax breaks are missing for couples who choose not to marry.


Over the years, the question has often been raised as to whether unmarried couples should have similar tax breaks as married couples, including rights over the other’s property.

The Law Commission in 2007 recommended that couples who live together should have the same rights of inheritance if one of the pair dies without having made a will after 5 years of cohabitation (or just two if they have children living with them), but the government declined to move forward with the recommendations, and it’s also still the case that cohabiting couples do not enjoy the same tax breaks as married couples. So what tax breaks are the unmarried couples missing out on?

  • They can’t inherit an unused nil rate band from their partner
  • They can’t make IHT-free gifts to each other during lifetime or on death
  • They can’t inherit the ISA allowance
  • They don’t enjoy a married couple’s allowance (although this only applies to married couples if one was born before 6 April 1935)
  • They don’t enjoy the ‘no gain no loss’ CGT rules on transfers
  • And as mentioned in our recent article, they can’t share part of their personal allowance (although even this only applies to lower income households and not all married couples)
Here are some of the tax breaks unmarried couples in the UK are missing out on. Click To Tweet


As for rights of inheritance, unmarried partners (and partners who have not registered a civil partnership) cannot inherit from each other unless there is a valid will.  With nearly 2/3 of the British adult population without a will, a significant number of them will be survived by a partner they weren’t married to.  So, if the reasons above aren’t good enough to tie the knot, then the only way to ensure that property and treasured possessions (and that includes the dog) end up with the person or persons the deceased would have wanted, is of course to leave a valid will, duly signed and witnessed.

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