New Judgment: Humphreys v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs  UKSC 18
16 Wednesday May 2012
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 56
The claimant father, who cares for his children for three days a week, applied to share child tax credits with their mother. HMRC refused on the grounds that as a minority carer he was not “responsible” for the children within the terms of the Child Tax Credit Regulations 2002, SI 2002/2007. The claimant’s appeal against this refusal argued that the legislative scheme breached ECHR, art 14 by indirectly discriminating against men, as fathers on the whole were more likely than mothers to have secondary, yet significant, responsibility for their children. HMRC accepted that the legislative scheme indirectly discriminated against men, and so the key issue for the Supreme Court was whether that discrimination was objectively justified.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. The specific test for justifying discrimination in the context of state benefits was set out in Stec v UK (2006) 43 EHRR 1017, where it was held that with questions of social and economic strategy the Court will generally respect the legislature’s policy choice unless it was “manifestly without reasonable foundation”. HMRC’s aim in this scheme was to reduce child poverty, and splitting the CTC between two carers could result in neither being able to provide for the children’s needs.