Posted March 8, 2019

International Women’s Day and UK Tax Independence

As it’s International Women’s Day today, we’ve delved into the history of women and taxation, and are still reeling from what we’ve discovered.

It’s shocking to think that prior to 1990 a married woman’s rights to financial independence were virtually non-existent, and even our founder Joanne was affected by this when she set up our firm in 1989 (Click here for our full story).

As most of us at the firm didn’t realise how recently women have achieved tax independence, we thought we’d share our findings.

A brief timeline…


Income tax was first introduced. A married woman’s income was taxed as a part of her husband’s income.


Any profits earned by a married woman “shall be deemed to be the profits of the husband”.


Spouses could elect to file their own tax returns. However, the Inland Revenue added the husband and wife’s incomes together, and the tax was calculated as though all the income was the husband’s, and then the tax for each spouse was calculated on a rough ratio of the incomes.


Election for separate taxation of a wife’s earnings was introduced. This election had to be made jointly. If this was taken up, both the husband and wife were taxed as though they were single individuals. Any of the wife’s income that wasn’t from employment such as savings interest was still assessed as part of her husband’s income.


If the Inland Revenue received a letter from a wife, they had to write back to “the person concerned” rather than automatically sending a letter back to the husband.


“A woman’s income chargeable to income tax shall … during which [time] she is a married woman living with her husband, be deemed for income tax purposes to be his income and not her income.” This was in section 279 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988.


A married couple had to have a joint income of £30,511, of which the wife’s employment income needed to be at least £7,026, for the separate taxation election to be worthwhile. This is because the election would mean that each spouse could claim separate personal allowances but no marriage allowances.

6th April 1990

At long last, almost 200 years later, independent taxation was finally introduced for women.