Attempting to defuse the row over plans to cut child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers, David Cameron has indicated the government will introduce an annual £150 tax break for married couples by 2015.
The prime minister said: "I have always supported the idea of supporting marriage through the tax system, specifically supporting the idea of a transferable tax allowance. The idea of a transferable tax allowance is in the coalition agreement.
"It's something we would like to do this parliament."
Responding to mounting criticism of the government's decision to end universal provision of child benefits, Cameron said: "The truth of the matter is, this deficit is so bad we can't deal with it just by going after the super rich, or by dealing with welfare dependency -- we do have to ask relatively better off families to make a contribution."
He also apologised for reneging on his promise to preserve the universalist base of the welfare state.
"We did not outline all those cuts, but we did not know exactly the situation we were going to inherit," he said.
"But yes I acknowledge this was not in our manifesto. Of course I am sorry about that."
The changes announced by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday will mean that families with at least one parent earning more than £44,875 a year will no longer receive child benefit.
Critics say the change is unfair since families with two earners, each paid just under the threshold, will still be eligible for the benefit; while those where only one parent works, who is paid just above the threshold, will no longer receive it.
George Osborne said: "I know some have pointed out that this approach will leave households that do not contain a higher rate taxpayer, but whose joint income is above the higher-rate threshold, still in receipt of child benefit.
"[But] the only way to assess these joint income families would be to create a new complex, costly and intrusive means test that would spread right up the income distribution."
- David Cameron 'sorry' child benefit cut was not in Tory manifesto (Guardian)
- Cameron hints at tax break amid child benefit row (BBC News)
- Comment: the Manifesto for Happy and Healthy Families (The Solicitor)
- UK tax relief for married couples and civil partners (The Solicitor)
- Family law Q&A (Community)
- Family law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Tax law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Find a family law solicitor (Contact Law)