My Bob and the Granny Tax

My dear husband is not a Granny. And he’d better not be a Grandad for a very long time to come, given that our daughter is not yet a teenager. He is of an age to be affected by the so called “Granny Tax” eventually.

Now, you might, if you wish, feel a bit of sympathy for poor Bob. It must feel sometimes like George Osborne has pulled his name out of a hat and decided just to chip away at his income.

First he decided that in the year Bob reaches 65, the State Pension age will go up to 66 .

Then Gideon took his Child Benefit away, if briefly, pre retirement.

And now, he’s going to have to get by on the same personal tax allowance as everyone else.

The figure I heard bandied about on the so called “Granny Tax” (what a cynical name, and patronising in the extreme) was that people over 65 stood to lose £83 a year. That’s around £1.60 a week. This year alone, Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb, by virtue of his Triple Lock, has raised the State Pension by the biggest cash amount ever, £5.30 a week. In addition, pensioners will be getting around £140 a week in a couple of years’ time, up from the current round about £100 per week in State Pension.It’s worth saying, too, that people who only have the State Pension to live on don’t pay tax anyway. Pensioners also get free bus travel and a Winter Fuel Allowance from age 60 that many of them, including us, don’t actually need.

Bob certainly grumbled about having to wait an extra year for his Pension, but he sees it as a necessary evil. He’s also not wildly chuffed about losing Child Benefit especially when people who earn significantly more than he does will still get it. And the business of the tax allowance has barely bothered him at all. You see, he’s heard me go on incessantly for the last year about how the sick and disabled are losing their benefits. When there simply isn’t any spare cash for the Government to play with, the hit he’s being told he has to take does not seem unreasonable to him. He might grumble a little, but he knows it’s better than the alternative. And, unlike most pensioners, he’s seeing it in the context of having to put a child through university when he retires. Mind you, I think he’s banking on his much younger wife writing a best seller by then…

This whole “Granny Tax” furore, is inflated hyperbole and that relatively innocuous measure needs to be seen in context with the other benefits that pensioners have gained from the Liberal Democrat influence in this Government.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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40 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Mar '12 - 11:23am

    Because ‘Bob’s’ pension age has moved from 65 tpo 66 we know that he won’t start receiving a pension by next April … so actually the loss for those like him who will start receiving their state pension after that time is presently over £200.
    Also, I bet there is a good chance that Bob votes Lib Dem. Lots and lots of pensioners whose income just takes them over the new threshold do … or used to.
    Finally he is lucky he is not a woman born in 1954 because she would then have seen her retirement age rise from 60 to 62 and then to 66 in the last half dozen years. Quite a demanding financial planning problem.
    Lots and lots of 58 yearold women who are likely to retire with pensions in the region of £15,000 a year are time served public servants who have put a caring profession and care for their family as a priority and voted for us … or used to.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Mar '12 - 11:37am

    I should maybe let Bob speak for himself, but he does vote Lib Dem and intends to.

    As regards the issues surrounding women born in 1954, our team of Steve Webb and Jenny Willott managed to change these plans to get an assurance that no woman would see their pension age rise by more than 18 months:

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/jenny-willott-mp-writes-18-months-and-over-a-billion-pounds-lib-dem-victory-on-womens-state-pension-age-25586.html

    None of this is ideal due to the economic situation we found ourselves. It would help nobody for us to go the same way as Greece and Ireland, least of all pensioners.

    And I’m hoping that when pensioners see an increase of £5.30 in their pensions next month, they will realise that it was Lib Dem Steve Webb who sorted that out for them – against Tory opposition.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 22nd Mar '12 - 12:04pm

    @ Caron,

    Would you like to comment, also, on the suggestion, in a letter in today’s “Times” that the suggestion (sorry to use the same word twice in one sentence) of integrating tax and national insurance contributions means that pensioners, who don’t pay national insurance, could end up with a significantly higher overall tax bill than at present.?

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Mar '12 - 12:04pm

    I’m not in the least bothered by the so-called “Granny Tax” shenanigans. There’s really no good reason why over-65s should pay less tax on the same income; and of course, they will still benefit from the much more significant feather-bedding that is their exemption from paying NI.
    But it really won’t do to keep banging on about how we’ve secured the “biggest pension increase ever” or the so-called triple-lock:

    (1) The “biggest increase ever” is a reflection of nothing but the fact that inflation last year was the highest it had been in decades, so the last time there was any need for such a large percentage increase the value of money was twice what is now, therefore the level of the pension was half what it is now. All we’re doing is claiming credit for high inflation in the midst of a recession.

    (2) The “triple lock” has so far delivered not a single penny more to pensioners. Why not? Because over the last two years, inflation has been significantly higher than earnings growth and significantly over 2.5%. Does that mean that pensions are exactly the same now as they would be if the government had made no changes on the system it inherited? No — they are lower! Because the measure of inflation used has changed from RPI to CPI. It may well be that CPI is a more realistic measure of inflation as many economists argue; but there is no denying that it is consistently lower and therefore pension increases have been less than they would have been under what we presumably are calling “Labour’s rules”.
    Of course, it is likely that inflation will dip below 2.5% over the next couple of years, and by 2015 we may even be seeing earnings rising faster than prices again. However, Labour had already committed to restoring indexation to earnings from 2013, so pensioners will still be worse off than if the coalition hadn’t stepped in. Bringing forward that change by two years was of absolutely no value.

    You’re probably right that it was Lib Dem influence that forced the government to honour the inflation-linked rise in benefits this year. Chalk that one up as a small but welcome victory.

  • Malcolm – agreed. Isn’t this just a harmonisation so that pensioners’ extra allowance withers away as the standard allowance rises over time? So they only “lose” in a relative sense. (And have had many other benefits on average not least the massive house-price windfall).

  • Keith Browning 22nd Mar '12 - 12:09pm

    When I reached sixteen I had to pay full fare on buses and trains – there were no discounts. Student discounts only arrived when I was 22 and just left University.

    I used to like travelling around Britain and Europe on the train but I had to pay full fare. When i got to 23 they introduced a special young person’s fare for ‘under 23′ and when I got to 26 they extended it to ‘under 26′. I was never ever entitled to a discounted fare of any description.

    My eldest child was born in 1984. She was the guinea pig for every school test for the past twenty plus years.

    The new SATS test followed her up the school but never touched those a year older. When she got to 16 they invented a new type of ‘experimental’ A level system, which only ran in that form for a year, because it didn’t work.

    Two years later she was the first year to have to pay university fees.

    Now I’m just sixty and all the carrots of old age are being withdrawn or pushed further and further ahead. It is exactly like my youth when the benefits appeared behind me – now they are disappearing before I get there.

    Not sure what to make of it all. No-one, especially the state has done me any favours, any special offers, any jobs just because I was the boss’s son.

    Please don’t whinge on because you believe you are an ethnic or sexual minority, or have a disability, and want some special treatment, because in reality most of us are in a minority of some description, but we just doesn’t have such an effective PR system.

    At least thats what it feels like when every time sometime sticks up a promotional sign offering a good deal – there is always a caveat, ‘sorry this doesn’t apply to you, and if you think it does we have made a mistake’.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Mar '12 - 12:12pm

    My granny is certainly bothered by the granny tax. She is somewhat mollified by the increase in state pension, and is now philosophizing about how politicians give with one hand and take away with the other. She votes too.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 22nd Mar '12 - 12:22pm

    @ Malcolm Todd

    ” … they will still benefit from the much more significant feather-bedding that is their exemption from paying NI.”

    What utter nonsense. Anyone receiving the full state pension now and thus about to benefit from the £5.30 increase (triggered, as you say, by recent inflation rates, not by largesse from a benevolent government) is only doing so by virtue of having paid NI contributions throughout their working life. Perhaps you can name a life insurance scheme which expects its members to continue paying in after the policy has matured and they have begun to receive the benefits; if so, I will take care not to join it.

  • Disingenuous, I’d say. I’ll be 65 in a couple of years, so just get caught by Osborne’s manoeuvre. Using this year’s figures, that means I’ll lose the additional £2465 I would have got*. That’s equivalent to £493 a year – nearly £9.50 a week. I think you’ll agree that £5.30 a week extra doesn’t quite cover that. I’m not saying that I think I should get the extra – I’m not even sure what the justification for it is. But – I’d be more impressed if there was any evidence that my loss will be helping those on benefits … and I haven’t seen any.

    (My loss will be smaller than that if you use next year’s figures, but I’ll still lose more than I gain …)

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 12:33pm

    “There’s really no good reason why over-65s should pay less tax on the same income; and of course, they will still benefit from the much more significant feather-bedding that is their exemption from paying NI.”

    Perhaps the good reason is that they have made contributions to their pension income by paying NI throughout their working lives. I can only presume that Lloyd George and Beveridge mean nothing whatsoever to some modern LibDems.

    Some also ignore the impact on pensions (in both the public and private sector) of the switch in pension indexation from RPI to CPI.

    I’m afraid civilised people, and true Liberals, just do not rob pensioners in order to fill the £3bn hole in the public coffers that arises because high rate tax payers are seeking to avoid the 50p rate.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Mar '12 - 12:41pm

    @Nick (not Clegg) — don’t let the name fool you. National Insurance is a tax, pure and simple. The connection with NI payments made is nominal. When today’s 65-year-olds were entering the labour market, NI payments were much lower (and until 1977, flat-rate), so they weren’t paying anything like as much towards the pensioners of their parents’ generation as we are now paying for them. And of course, the rich — who get as much as possible of their money in investments and capital gains, which are never liable to NI — get to pay less for their whole lives.

    National Insurance is a political con, a game to make people feel that pensions are “earned”; and of course, a way of sustaining a tax-bribe to pensioners and rentiers by exempting them from paying a full share of the costs of the welfare state. Just because it’s how it’s done doesn’t mean it’s right.

  • ………………………..This year alone, Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb, by virtue of his Triple Lock, has raised the State Pension by the biggest cash amount ever, £5.30 a week…………

    Nick (not Clegg,) Malcolm Todd , Now, now, you mustn’t gainsay the above statement; after all, together with “75% of LibDem policies”, it has become our mantra…

  • “National Insurance is a political con, a game to make people feel that pensions are “earned”; and of course, a way of sustaining a tax-bribe to pensioners and rentiers by exempting them from paying a full share of the costs of the welfare state. Just because it’s how it’s done doesn’t mean it’s right.”

    Malcolm – agreed. And I believe (although I don’t have evidence ot back it up) that Beveridge’s original idea for NI was that it should be a proper insurance scheme, not the Ponzi scheme that currently operates that the NI tax fiction continues to hide and keep away from public debate.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Mar '12 - 12:46pm

    @toryboysnevergrowup

    It’s only “robbing” pensioners if you think there’s a good reason why they should be entitled to favourable tax treatment in the first place. You can argue (as N(nC) did above) that “paying for your pension” is a good reason for being exempt from NI in retirement, though as I’ve said, I think that’s a political snow-job; but it’s completely irrelevant to the maintenance of the age-related allowance.

    Incidentally, as you started your comment by quoting me, you might have the decency to acknowledge that while “Some also ignore the impact on pensions (in both the public and private sector) of the switch in pension indexation from RPI to CPI”, I have already explicitly made that point in answer to Caron, further down in the very same comment!

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Mar '12 - 12:53pm

    @Tabman — okay, now I’m going to pick an argument on both sides! State pensions are not a Ponzi scheme. It’s true that they depend on income from future pensioners to pay the pensions of past taxpayers; but that’s not what makes a Ponzi scheme toxic. What makes it so is that (a) it pretends to be still holding onto your original lump-sum investment, which you can in theory draw out at any time, and (b) it has no way of guaranteeing that it will continue to draw in future members. The state pension is not a pot of money invested over time (which is why NI is a con), but it is a perfectly reasonable intergenerational agreement — when you are young enough to work, you support those who are now retired in return for the expectation that the next generation will do the same for you. There is no theoretical lump sum that I can withdraw at any moment; and whilst it is not impossible that the ability of the state to survive and to extract tax from the working population will at some point in the future degrade to the point that pension promises cannot be kept, that would be a situation of such general systemic collapse that allegedly funded conventional pension schemes would be going down the tubes just as fast!

  • Nick (not Clegg) 22nd Mar '12 - 12:56pm

    @jason

    “Nick (not Clegg,) Malcolm Todd , Now, now, you mustn’t gainsay the above statement; after all, together with “75% of LibDem policies”, it has become our mantra…”

    Ah, yes, sorry. And those of you who are still members have got to be “proud” and “shout from the roof-tops”. Take care not to fall off; you don’t want to become a burden on the NHS.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 12:57pm

    You can argue (as N(nC) did above) that “paying for your pension” is a good reason for being exempt from NI in retirement, though as I’ve said, I think that’s a political snow-job; but it’s completely irrelevant to the maintenance of the age-related allowance.

    I disagree – the irrelevance is your own circular argument . You forget the fundamental duty that we have to support and treat fairly those who helped support those without work during their working lives.

  • Malcolm – OK, I was using shorthand and perhaps Mr Ponzi is not the best name to take. But it ois accurate to describe many (though not all) state pension schemes as “pass through” – in that the current tax take is paid out directly as pensions. Unfortunately far too many people believe they have somehow invested in a pension scheme. They haven’t.

    However, you yourself have already made the point:

    - previous generations paid far less than the current generation are paying out to them
    - As the population ages, the number of workers per pensioner will decrease leading to ever bigger demands on the working population
    - current workers will retire later and receive less than current pensioners

    Given the above, there’s an argument to say that the more generous tax allowance should fall on the working population, not the other way round?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 1:14pm

    Malcolm Todd

    You are just plain wrong if you believe that your history in paying NI contributions has no bearing on the level of pension you receive – particularly but not exclusively for those on SERPs (or whatever it is called today), but that is getting away from the broader point about the current workforces committment to deliver what was promised and expected to the now retired workforce in return for what the retired have done for us. Beveridge and Lloyd George deserve credit for making us understand that commitment and recognising that the State had a role in its enforcement – it should be a matter of undying shame that LibDems in government are now involved in undermining their own legacy.

    Happy to acknowledge that you were not one of the “some” who ignored the potentially greater impact of the RPI/CPI switch.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 1:24pm

    @Tabman

    Unfortunately far too many people believe they have somehow invested in a pension scheme. They haven’t.

    Just think of pensions as the return we pay to pensioners for having made and invested in the society/economy which they have left us. I for one think it is in pretty poor taste for us to try and reduce our obligations, which we have promised and led people to expect, because we don’t like the legacy that they left to us.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Mar '12 - 1:27pm

    @tbngu

    I didn’t say it had no bearing; but it’s very far from proportionate to what’s paid in, and the link is tenuous.

    But I’ve at no point questioned, nor would I deny, the obligation to pay decent pensions; indeed, I’ve cited it as part of the intergenerational bargain, above. But that’s completely separate from the idea that there should be favourable tax treatment of those aged over 65. There’s just no logical connection, and no moral obligation of that sort. It’s a non sequitur. I submit, you’re only arguing that there should be a higher tax allowance for pensioners because it already exists. If it didn’t, do you really believe you’d be calling for it to be invented?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 1:48pm

    @Malcolm Todd

    The obligation is to give pensioners a decent after tax income in line with their expectations – the overall impact of the changes has been to reduce the after tax income given to pensioners – this is the disgrace, playing around with the age allowance is the mechanism by which it has been acheived. Focusing on the parts is just a political distraction to disguise the overall objective – do you really buy Osborne’s justification in the Budget Speech? The reality is that the £3bn whole left by not collecting the 50p tax rate is being filled by Pensioners – this is just plain wrong in my opinion.

  • “I for one think it is in pretty poor taste for us to try and reduce our obligations, which we have promised and led people to expect, because we don’t like the legacy that they left to us.”

    That’s a non-sequitur. They promised the benefits to themselves in the future when they set the system up! On the contrary; I think its in pretty poot taste that they should have set up a system that relies on them enjoying benefits that an ever decreasing workforce are going to be unable to provide.

  • TBNGU – £3bn in a budget of £750bn amounts to <0.5%

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 2:28pm

    Tabman

    £3bn is still a lot in absolute terms – and I could think of some who are rather more deserving of such largesse than those earning £150k, especially since a signifcant proportion of those concerned have contibuted not a little to the mess we are in, and certainly more than those pensioners who will pay more tax in real terms becuase they have lost indexation of their allowances.

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that even some Conservative accountants are not buying some of the arguments being peddled about pensioners allowances http://www.fcablog.org.uk/2012/03/selfish-young-people/

    We might also ask who will have to pay for the reduction in the rate from 45p to 40p that Osborne is already promising to his backbenchers (rubber stamped already by Nick???).

  • toryboysnevergrowup 22nd Mar '12 - 2:43pm

    That’s a non-sequitur. They promised the benefits to themselves in the future when they set the system up!

    I think that you fail to understand the basic agreement on which civilised societies are based – those in work and who are able to provide agree to support those that cannot in return for a commitment that they will receive support when they are unable to do so themselves.

  • “I think that you fail to understand the basic agreement on which civilised societies are based – those in work and who are able to provide agree to support those that cannot in return for a commitment that they will receive support when they are unable to do so themselves.”

    No I understand it perfectly well. I also understand the basic agreements of a civilised society that one group will not benefit unjustly at the expense of another, that commitments should not be made on behalf of those with no say in their execution, and that the cost implications of policies should be properly explained and paid for by those voting for them.

    Can you justify why those in receipt of income in the form of a pension should pay less tax than those who in receipt of income form their labour? When those currently working are paying to bring up children and fund the mortgages paid to finance the property windfalls of those in receipt of pensions?

  • @Keith: You wrote – “Now I’m just sixty and all the carrots of old age are being withdrawn or pushed further and further ahead.” You mean the new guaranteed rises in the Basic State Pension? No, I guess not. What about the protected Winter Fuel Payment? No, I guess not either. The free bus travel? Oh, no, that’s protected too.

    I suggest Keith that you start looking on the bright side of life.

  • Staurt – and he can look back on the tidy windfall made in the increase in value of his house, and the fact that he will get to retire close to 60.

  • Stuart. I would suggest that when Lib Dems (and/or Conservatives) encounter pension-voters who are angry about the ‘granny tax’, they (the LibDems and/or Conservatives) do not counter with the line ‘I suggest that you {the pensioner(s)] start looking on the bright side of life’. Bad move.

  • Keith Browning 22nd Mar '12 - 4:24pm

    Stuart

    I was simply listing a few facts – none of which have an emotional content – but tongue was firmly in cheek, because I know that there is no particular party or interest group which will fight for people like me, despite people like me probably making up a large/majority proportion of the population.

    Country is now run by a combination of special interest groups and minorities.

    Time the voice of the silent majority was heard.

  • patricia roche 22nd Mar '12 - 4:36pm

    Do you know, I thought I was on conservative home, or perhas I am. A granny voter

  • My main objection is the title “Granny Tax”
    One would think that it is only the femail pensioner that is going to be hit.
    If it had been dubbed the “Grandad Tax”, all the feminists would be up in arms.
    Sureley, a fairer title would be the “Senior Citizen Tax”

  • Stuart Mitchell 22nd Mar '12 - 7:56pm

    It has certainly been extremely amusing to watch the government being torn to shreds over the Granny Tax today, especially given the way Osborne announced the change in the Commons equivalent of a mumble beneath a fake cough.

    Last year the government got away with a very similar stealth tax in the form of re-indexing national insurance thresholds – a move which will rake in exponentially increasing savings for the government year on year, but which virtually nobody even knows about.

    Having escaped scot free over THAT one, Osborne and Alexander obviously thought they could pull it off again with the Granny Tax. Nice to see that soemtimes this kind of stunt can backfire spectacularly.

  • Tabman Mar 22 – 2:59 pm
    “Can you justify why those in receipt of income in the form of a pension should pay less tax than those who in receipt of income form their labour?”

    Interesting this question didn’t come up in the recent blog on taxing pensions ( http://www.libdemvoice.org/please-can-we-stop-raising-tax-out-of-peoples-pensions-27433.html )

    Firstly, lets look at NI. Since NI is a tax on employment it doesn’t make sense for it to be applied to Pensions. However, we should also remember that NI (Employers & Employee) is paid on ALL personal pension contributions that are made out of a person’s ‘taxable income’, hence it makes sense that returns from these contributions should be exempt from further NI as per ISA’s and other income derived from savings. This just leaves the pension component funded by the employer which is currently not directly taxed (PAYE or Employers NI and is claimed as a business expense ) at time of contribution (hence why salary sacrifice is such a good way of LEGALLY avoiding NI).

    With respect to PAYE (which the budget measure focused on) , it is harder to make any real distinction between a pensioner and any other taxpayer. However, if we recognize that pensioners (particularly the over 75′s ie those who have been retired for 10+ years) are more likely to be financially hard-up then as we have seen in the current debate, higher allowances doesn’t put money in the pockets of those with small incomes, the simple way to do this is through a credits system.

    So I think there is a case for continuing the current system of Pensioners not paying NI on their pensions but paying Income Tax at the rate prevailing when income is taken.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 23rd Mar '12 - 8:09am

    @ Tabman

    ” … and he can look back on the tidy windfall made in the increase in value of his house …”.”

    I wonder if that’s true. Remember that the losers from this “simplification of the tax system” will be pensioners on relatively modest incomes. I wonder how many of them actually own their homes.

  • @ Tabman

    ” … and he can look back on the tidy windfall made in the increase in value of his house …”.”

    One of the aspects of this that is being overlooked is that many home owners are in the making-ends-meet to comfortable bracket, these include many people who brought their council house . The question is whether such people should effectively be forced to use all of their assets to pay for their retirement; leaving very little for their children, or should the children/grandchildren contribute slightly more to their parents/grandparents pensions and potentially receive a small inheritance?

    A second aspect that is being overlooked is that with many private sector pension funds being underfunded and relying on the long term prosperity of the owning company to full the hole, there is no guarantee that these funds will be able to payout the amounts promised for the duration of a persons retirement. Looking at the small print of my various pension funds, they only guarantee payouts for 5 years, so having other investments is useful insurance; particularly as there are significant unanswered questions about the extent to which the government’s Pension Protection Fund will be able to assist.

  • “The question is whether such people should effectively be forced to use all of their assets to pay for their retirement; leaving very little for their children, or should the children/grandchildren contribute slightly more to their parents/grandparents pensions and potentially receive a small inheritance?”

    This question is already being answered in practice in most cases. When pensioners are in receipt of long-term care, the asset threshold is small (c£25k?), which means that a house will have to be sold to fund their care.

    I don’t have any problem with this as I am in principle opposed to the inheritence principle as fundamentally illiberal and antimeritocratic.

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