Osborne's cheap childcare: is it fair?

George OsborneAP

Rumours abound that George Osborne has a plan to make the Conservatives popular among women and families in one fell swoop. Forget the cuts in tax credits, overlook the axed child benefit, because Osborne wants to make childcare tax deductible.

The move could save families thousands of pounds a year, but is this the right thing to do?

The rumour
At the moment this hasn't even got to the proposal stage, it's a report from The Spectator that Osborne is 'considering' it. The magazine claims that the Tories are planning an announcement in the next few weeks to say that some childcare costs will be tax-free. However, it also says that Osborne would like to make all childcare fully tax deductible - which would have a far more profound effect.

The supporters
The news has received a decidedly mixed reaction. On the one hand, there are those who think this is only fair. They point out that a self-employed person can already offset the other costs of working - everything from electricity bills to travel expenses. They say that the hundreds of pounds they hand over every week in childcare is a cost of working (if they weren't working they wouldn't need the childcare) so it's only right that this should be tax-deductible.

Of course this wouldn't be restricted to people who work for themselves. Those on a salary would also be able to offset their childcare costs against the portion of their salary they pay tax on.

It would mean many more thousands of women could afford to go back to work, and struggling families would find themselves with a new way to make ends meet.

So far, so fair.

The anger
Except there is a strong backlash already from those without children, or with grown up children.

They point out that the move would cost the government billions of pounds a year,which would have to be collected in taxes. These would fall on us all - whether we have children or not - so effectively those without children would end up paying for those who do. They argue that they already pay for schools and the burden on the NHS and they shouldn't be expected to fork out for the childcare too.

There are also those who think women should stay at home to look after their children, so the government shouldn't be incentivising childcare.

So what do you think? Is this fair? And is it likely? Let us know in the comments.
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