I was reading the Hindustan Times, India’s foremost online newspaper recently- I like to keep up to date with Eastern comings and goings – and there was a piece highlighting that Ireland is no country for old singles.
“Two heterosexual Irish men married in Dublin to avoid paying €50,000 inheritance tax on a house…. Best friends Matt Murphy and Michael O’Sullivan decided to get married when they discovered how much tax would have to be paid on the house Murphy, 83, intended to leave in his will to O’Sullivan, 58, who is his carer,” the piece informed its global readers.
The fact that the news of the two men hit India was poignant, simply because it highlighted the discrimination singles have to face in Ireland. Living in times of ubiquitous victim culture, where it appears that everyone’s a victim of something, single people have been pretty quiet and yet they’ve gotten it up the ying yang in terms of unfair tax laws, rents and whatever else.
If you’re single, you have no platforms like married couples, same sex civil partners, people with disabilities, travellers or farmers when it comes to our tax laws. In terms of inheritance tax, the tax free allowance if you’re single is just €16,250, while its €310,000 where the beneficiary is a child. So in a nutshell, the person who inherits from you dishes out a fortune in taxes if you’re single and childless.
Where that leaves the almost 160,000 people living alone over 65 in Ireland and those who potentially inherit from them is anyone’s guess.
Around a quarter of all people between 40 and 49 are single and half of those under 40. But by the looks of things they won’t have to marry their carers when they’re older because they won’t have an inheritance to pass down.
I was chatting to a few friends who tick the plus 40/ single box and they described their general situations as a combination of ‘dire,’ ‘demoralising’ and ‘degrading,’ – accommodation being at the forefront of their misery.
A bunch of middle to low earner friends, aged between 40 and 50 odd, who lived in the centre of town for up to twenty years across two lovely period rental homes were recently asked to move out as the buildings are being sold. As the apartments comprised mostly of well sized affordable one beds, the inhabitants are now screwed and won’t be living anywhere near the Pale by the sounds of things. One friend, in his mid 40s has to move in with his parents in Kerry, another frets about becoming homeless, all this because they don’t have anyone to share costs with.
“The prospect of finding a place of my own is now negligible. The blue chip kids at Google and Facebook are the only ones who can afford to live on their own, so I’m not sure what my options are really,” one friend informed me.
When you’re a professional, working and living in town your entire adult life, you don’t really want to live in a flatshare with a bunch of students, another friend informed me. “The worst part is that you get rejected all the time. Its like internet dating. The people living there already look you up and down, judge you and then don’t call,” she added. “All that for €1000 a month to share a kip of a house with strangers. It’s not like you’re getting a good deal. I don’t know what happened?” she added.
So what does everyone do? In the absence of being able to get up from your work desk, walk out the door and onto the street, hail a cab to the airport and fly to low cost Bolivia to wait till the next recession while availing of of €1 fags, I’m all out of answers.
As a single person in my 40s myself, I chose to take Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin’s advice and decided to be one of those ‘sisters who does it for themselves,’ by moving to South Africa, where I avail of cheaper rents, petrol, childcare and fags. How long I stay totally depends on visas and other situations.
But if I were in Ireland now, I’d be down €4,000 a month for all the above before I even pay one bill, so it’s not an option for me.
Moving away, most definitely isn’t option for every single person out there. What’s sad is that people who were part of communities, like my friends in the period houses, will now be alone somewhere in an unknown neighbourhood, away from anyone who cares for them. Your friends get less as you get older, and it’s not a pleasant prospect for so many.
On the other hand, I guess it could be worse, we could be suffering in silence, stuck in relationships and marriages we don’t want to be in, purely for economical reasons. I know we don’t get to split the electricity, don’t avail of couple’s gym memberships, pay more income tax and have to cover the cost of the entire room when we go on hols, but there’s a lot of people, especially women out in difficult relationships who can’t get away and they can’t just up and leave and go to Bolivia.