Will Budget announcements affect birth and death rates?

09 July 2015

Andrew Hubbard

The Budget includes a number of measures that depend on knowing the precise date on which somebody was born or died. This can have unexpected consequences.

Imagine the scene. It is 10.00pm at night on 5 April 2017. Janet is in labour with her third child. The tax credit restriction for families with more than two children comes in from 6 April 2017. (To be strictly accurate we don’t know exactly how the rules will work but birth date will be a key factor). Will she ask for medical intervention to hasten the birth of child number three so that the deadline is not missed? And if she does is she in danger of being caught by the GAAR! Suppose the child is born at five mins past midnight – what pressure will there be on the nurses to fudge the time of birth back to five mins before midnight?

Far fetched? I wouldn’t be so sure. Australia introduced a baby bonus for babies born on or after 1 July 2004. When the statisticians looked at the date for births they found that the number of births on 1 July 2004 was an all-time record – and was twice the number of births on the previous day! Of course it could just have been coincidence…. Just to complete the picture Australia abolished death duties on 1 July 1979 but the date was announced in advance. Surprise, surprise, the death rate in the last week in June was much lower than normal whereas the rate for the first week in July was much higher. Who said that the only certainties were death and taxes? (And one day I will tell you about the tax avoidance scheme which depended on General Franco dying and which failed because his death was so protracted!)

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