Monday, December 05, 2011

Tax and the Coalition: fairness and responsibility?

I've got rather a backlog of stuff that I wanted to cover, so for those of you who have read the booklet already, you can always find a couple of dozen leaflets to deliver...

A copy of 'Tax and the coalition: fairness and responsibility?' has been passed to me, and given my obvious interest in taxation policy (you might as well know what might be done to you, personally and professionally, before it is), I've found time to read through it. Written by Dick Newby, our Treasury Spokesperson in the Lords and a former tax policy advisor for the Inland Revenue (I knew that I liked him for a reason), the booklet looks at ways in which the tax system can be made fairer, and how tax collection can be made more effective.

There is a valid debate to be had in terms of how fair our tax system already is, and the Gini coefficient (a measure of a population's overall income inequality) for the United Kingdom  demonstrates the impact of, amongst other things, how government action has impacted on income inequality since 1961. It tells a tale of relative stability until the arrival of the Thatcher administration in 1979, when the coefficient value went from 0.25 then, to 0.37 in 1992 (the measure is on a scale between 0 (no inequality) to 1 (think Russian plutocracy). Through the Major and Blair years, it stabilised again, before resuming its upward trajectory as Blair handed over to Brown. By 2009, it stood at 0.41.

Lord Newby then goes on to look at various measures that might create a fairer taxation system, starting with adjustments to capital gains tax (linking it to income tax rates and equalising the annual tax free gain with the level of the personal allowance), inheritance tax (extending the exemption period from seven years), reviewing the tax regime for non-domiciles, and introducing a General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR).

He also supports widespread calls for a review of HM Revenue & Customs staffing cuts, and at a time when the Public and Commercial Services Union is calling for the staff losses to stop, his suggestion that "this is illogical and counter-productive' might come as a surprise to Mark Serwotka and his friends. However, it is an opinion that is much more widely held than by those in favour of a larger State. Taxation Magazine (your partner in tax law, practice and administration), for example, has run a number of campaigns calling for better staffing.

Finally, land taxation gets a look-in, with a call for site value rating. Whilst I would admit that this has been a liberal campaign over decades, it still has relevance, and even more so given the mobility of capital.

There is much worth reading in this booklet, as a means to developing a truly Liberal Democrat approach to taxation, and I would encourage those of you with an interest in the field to take a look. Indeed, I would urge those of you who wouldn't normally have an interest to read about the income generating end of an income and expenditure model.

1 comment:

Gareth Epps said...

'Tis indeed a very good summary of where we should be right now on tax.