Revenue Note for Guidance

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Revenue Note for Guidance

Part 44

Married, Separated and Divorced Persons


Income Tax


This Chapter deals primarily with the tax treatment of married couples and the various assessment options available to them. These options are —

  • joint assessment (also known as aggregation),
  • separate assessment, and
  • separate treatment.

In the absence of an election to the contrary, a couple is deemed to have elected for joint assessment. Under joint assessment, one spouse is chargeable to tax, not alone on his/her own total income, but also on the total income of his/her spouse. The spouse who is chargeable to tax on the income of both spouses is known as the “assessable spouse”.

Under separate assessment (section 1023), each spouse is assessed on his/her own income with allowances and reliefs divided between the spouses in accordance with section 1024. Separate assessment is also known as “separate assessment within joint assessment” as one spouse’s unused allowances, reliefs and rate bands may be transferred to the other spouse (that is, the aggregate of the tax payable by each spouse under separate assessment cannot exceed the tax payable had that couple elected to be jointly assessed).

Under separate treatment (section 1016), each spouse is treated for tax purposes as if unmarried. The main difference between separate treatment and separate assessment is that, under separate treatment, one spouse’s unused allowances, reliefs and rate bands cannot be transferred to the other spouse.

Where a couple marry within a year of assessment, relief is provided by way of repayment of tax and divided between each spouse (section 1020). The Chapter goes on to provide for repayment of tax to couples jointly assessed (section 1021) and for tax due on one spouse where the assessed spouse does not pay any or enough tax (section 1022).

Finally, the Chapter deals with maintenance payments for separated spouses (section 1025), for the adaptation of certain provisions to allow for the joint assessment of separated and certain divorced spouses (section 1026) and for the payments in respect of orders under specific family law legislation to be made without deduction of tax (section 1027).

1015 Interpretation (Chapter 1)


This section is an interpretation provision and defines certain references which are used throughout the Chapter.


(1) The “inspector” is any inspector who the spouse giving a notice under this Chapter may reasonably consider is the inspector to whom the notice should be sent or any inspector who indicates readiness to accept the notice.

(2) A wife is regarded as living with her husband for income tax purposes unless they are separated —

  • under a court order,
  • by deed of separation, or
  • in such circumstances that the separation is likely to be permanent.

(3)(a) A wife’s income includes any income (including income deemed to be the wife’s income) which would be included in computing her total income.

(3)(b) References to a person who has elected to be assessed in a particular way include references to a person who is deemed to have elected to be assessed in such a way. Similarly, references to a husband being assessed on a couple’s joint income include references to a couple being separately assessed.

(4) Any notice concerning the taxation of a married couple may be served by post.

Relevant Date: Finance Act 2021