Two male Irish friends, neither of which is gay, have decided to get married in order to avoid paying a hefty inheritance tax. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood comedy, only in real life.
Michael O’Sullivan, from Stoneybatter, north Dublin, has been friends with Matt (surname not disclosed for privacy reasons) for almost 30 years. Both are in their 80s, and O’Sullivan is now Matt’s caretaker and stands to inherit his home and other possessions. Unfortunately, because of Ireland’s Capital Acquisitions Tax (Cat), which applies to gifts and inheritances over specified amounts, Matt would have to pay 33% to the government. However, the tax does not apply to gifts or inheritance given to a spouse or civil partner, so the two men decided that the best way would be to get married.
Photo: Jeff Belmonte/Flickr
In an interview with RTÉ’s Liveline Matt stated that O’Sullivan was his best friend and they were marrying “because he will be part of my life when I die and whatever I have, i.e., my home, there will be no problems, he can have it. If he is to pay to look after me in my old age. I thought it was a very good thing that came into my head to say, nowadays, this is official.
O’Sullivan, a divorcee and father-of three adult children, told RTE that he and Matt go back almost three decades. “The thing is I know Matt for 29 years, the same age as my own daughter. He lives in the same area as I grew up, in Stoneybatter. And he’s one of the nicest people anyone will ever meet in their life.”
“Matt said to me ‘look, I’m going to leave you the house.’ I said it’s a nice idea, but because of tax reasons, I’d have to pay half to the Government. But once we are married, I’m his spouse then, and if one partner dies, the house automatically goes to the other partner. I love Matt, but not in a sexual way. I’m his carer now and as Matt said to me one day, ‘it isn’t a bad idea’.””
O’Sullivan added that his children have no problem with his upcoming marriage, as they have also known Matt for decades.
The pair initially planned to marry on December 22, but have delayed the ceremony to January due to weather concerns. Same-sex marriage was legalized by popular vote in Ireland on 16 November 2015, via a referendum that took place on 22 May 2015. Civil partnerships had been granted in 2010 but did not offer rights and responsibilities equal to marriage.
I wonder how the Irish financial authorities feel about this. It was one thing if they just got married and didn’t really say why they were doing it, but this way… As O’Sullivan himself admits, it’s like American immigrants getting married to legal residents for a Green Card. This sort of convenience arrangements are not exactly legal.