Our survey says Lib Dems want a 50p top-rate of tax – but will they vote for it at conference?

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

56% of Lib Dem members back a 50p rate of top-rate tax

As I type, the party is debating its tax policies. It’s highly likely the Lib Dems will vote to extend its popular tax-cuts for the low-paid package by lifting still further the personal allowance so that no-one paid the minimum wage has to pay any tax. But the party is also re-visiting the issue of the 50p top-rate of tax, ditched as party policy back in 2006. Revived by Gordon Brown before the 2010 election, it was then half-killed in George Osborne’s 2012 omnishambles budget. So we asked members for your views…

Currently the top-rate of income tax paid by UK taxpayers is 45% for income over £150,000 per year. Do you think this rate should be maintained, or do you think it should be increased to 50% for income over £150,000 per year (so long as an independent review concludes such an increase would raise more revenue)?

    35% – Maintain it at 45%

    56% – Increase it to 50%

    6% – Neither

    3% – Don’t know

According to our survey, therefore, the Lib Dems back a 50p top-rate of tax by a significant margin, 56% to 35%. Party president Tim Farron has hinted he’ll vote for the option, as indeed he told me he would when I interviewed him earlier this year for Ad Lib: “Cutting the top-rate was a stupid thing to do. It probably raised up to £3bn a year. We should pledge to restore the 50p rate at the next election. It’s not enough to be fair, you have to be seen to be fair.”

The party leadership has deliberately soft-pedalled on this debate, recognising it can’t afford to be seen fighting activists on every issue and focusing instead on this morning’s economy motion. There is no question, though, that they want to see the 45p rate maintained and do not want to see 50p in the 2015 manifesto. Will the Lib Dem conference which has, so far, backed the leadership on every contentious issue agree? We’ll see within the hour…

44% back Coalition’s deficit reduction strategy

This morning, the party voted to back the Coalition’s economic policy — and that’s also the position of a plurality of Lib Dem members in our survey:

Thinking of the current state of the economy and the Coalition’s approach, which of the following statements is closest to your own view? (Changes from July 2013 in brackets)

    15% (n/c) – Cutting the deficit isn’t enough: alongside public spending cuts, the Coalition should be aiming to stimulate growth through supply-side reforms (eg, de-regulation to make it easier for firms to hire and fire) and tax-cuts.

    44% (+3%) – The Coalition is right to keep its focus on cutting the deficit and limiting the UK’s debt: sustainable growth is only possible if we stop spending more than we earn as a nation, even if it is painful in the short-term.

    33% (n/c) – Cutting the deficit in this way is hurting the economy: the Coalition should ease public spending cuts and borrow more for capital spending to boost the economy, even if it does increase the UK’s deficit and debt in the short-term.

    6% (-2%) – Other

    2% (-2%) – Don’t know

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 696 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 13th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    8 Comments

    • The “so long as an independent review concludes such an increase would raise more revenue” caveat is helpful but is it enough? At present there have been a big increase in stamp duty for high priced houses and abolition of Child Benefit for higher earners. All of which seems to be a messy compromise. A 50% tax for higher earners instead with benfits taxed along with all forms of income could have been better.

      Whatever the proposal one part of taxation can only be judged as part of the whole.

      Putting up the higher rate tax to placate a lot of shouty Labour people, when Labour indulged higher earners much more is not a particularly good reason.

    • It would of been relevant to have asked at the same time “What is your current top rate of tax?” as I suspect that the majority of respondents don’t currently pay tax at 45%…

    • But surely those who pay the 45-50% rate of tax are those who can afford to attend all the conferences?

      Hahaha what a lark!

    • But graduates on the higher rate (earning over £32k) will be paying 49% tax, with NI which brings it to 51%.

      51% ! for those who went to university how dare they.

      So those famously large bankers and “captains of industry” should surely make a fairer, proportional contribution. 50% looks pathetic tbh.

    • Mark Seaman 16th Sep '13 - 7:19pm

      The primary aim at the moment should be to ensure that the current rates of tax are actually collected, but sadly the party has signed up to a large scale cut back in staff numbers at Revenue and Customs so this will not happen. Any debate about a top rate between 40-50% is rather like argueing about what type of roofing to use on a house, when the foundations are being removed to pay for that roofing.

    • The so called millionaires and billionaires that routinely appear in the papers should be made to pay their fair share of Tax. Constantly bragging about how they earn £100K a week and yet they only pay Tax on an annual salary of £10K.
      Pop stars and business executives who brag about earning millions a year and yet their annual returns show them only making £10K a year.
      Tax should only be 30% income and VAT 15%. Because of this low life the rest of us are having to make the countries ends meet and pay over 60% tax.

    • Those on the universal credit will be paying in £65 for every extra £100 they earn. That’s people below the poverty line!
      That’s people who can’t even afford to heat & eat properly!

      So 65% tax for those on over £150,000 please, it really is the very least you could do.

    • Sorry my comments are so late. If that person on Universal Credit is earning more than £181.54 a week then for every extra pound they earn they keep 3 pence not 35 pence!

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