Pursuing fairness – We need change both at the top and at the bottom

The United Kingdom is a funny place.

We’ve got a royal family which controls the Crown Estates, a huge area of land, and contributes to society in a variety of ways, while getting most of its funding through the taxation system.

We’ve got a House of Commons representing, as you would expect, the general public, and a House of Lords, which is politically appointed, scrutinising our laws.

We pay people benefits to people on the basis that they are disabled rather than the fact that they may need the money and we make people who don’t meet the threshold of disability try to live on next to nothing if they can’t find a job.

We let people in charities and businesses pay themselves six figure salaries and little or no taxes, and we put sometimes quite unreasonable expectations on the self-employed.

Our council tax system, paid by everybody, is regressive and we punish people who don’t have driveways by making them pay to park their car on the street.

We make people drive up to 90 minutes each way for a job that may make the minimum wage rather than concede that there may be a better way to do things than continually force people into low paid jobs so that richer people can enjoy the services that they want.

There may be a better way.

It may be better to give everyone a basic income to meet their basic expenses and then tax all income after that.

We may want to look more closely at tax evasion and make online retailers pay their fair share.

We should take a long, hard look at the council tax system and consider whether council tax should be paid by property owners rather than renters.

Business rates are in drastic need of an overhaul and we need to look at the basics of land ownership and the leasehold arrangements which are, quite clearly, unfair.

We might even want look at the way that our grant system works to encourage community cohesion and enable those with a vision to pursue community projects.

Some organisations, like the Heritage Fund, are overfunded while others, while doing great work, like hostels for those escaping domestic violence, struggle to exist.

In short, as a nation, we need to pull our socks up. We need to consider the experience of ordinary Britons and reward effort and innovation while not falling under the yoke of extreme capitalism.

We need change both at the top and at the bottom.

* Gillian Douglass is a member of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats

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14 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 16th Mar '21 - 1:45pm

    Thank you for a most interesting and useful article!

  • A thought provoking article, thank you. I hope we can make tax simplification (plus UBi/end poverty message) the cornerstone policy for the ‘fair’ pillar in the party strategy.

    Complex tax structures benefit no one except the wealthy individuals and corporations that can afford the advice on how to avoid them.

    A flat rate of income tax with a tax free threshold set progressively high (at full time national living wage level or just about managing middle income bracket?) underpinned by a UBI that means no one suffers absolute poverty or is at risk of falling through the cracks during changes in their situation (aside from non-financial causes of poverty). I would be fascinated if someone had a calculator or similar tool which would show what this would look like in practice to yield an equal value to current tax receipts? Properly constructed and suitably positioned – this can be shown as fair to all.

    You could then build further from this foundation by combining, aligning or abolishing other taxes (NI, CGT, Council tax, Business Rates etc).

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Mar '21 - 2:51pm

    “we punish people who don’t have driveways by making them pay to park their car on the street.”

    =
    we benefit people who store their cars on the public highway by over £1,000 per car p.a.

    there, fixed that for you.

  • “The United Kingdom is a funny place. We’ve got a royal family which controls the Crown Estates, a huge area of land, and contributes to society in a variety of ways, while getting most of its funding through the taxation system.”

    Yes, indeed. But given the current climate, could you explain where Prince Andrew fits into all this, and whether he and Prince Harry, will receive ” a basic income to meet their basic expenses” ?

  • Brad Barrows 16th Mar '21 - 6:10pm

    Let me add another unfairness for your consideration: we tax two identical families, earning the same family income, different amount of income tax depending on the distribution of that income. (So family A: one adult earns 60000 per year and second adult 20000 per year – total family income 80000 – pay more income tax than family B, 2 adults each earning 40000, for 80000 total family income.)

  • @Brad Barrows – it gets worse with one person earning £80,000, but then many round here it would seem would prefer everyone to be earning £26,000 and be living on benefits in council houses…

  • >We’ve got a royal family which controls the Crown Estates
    Factually incorrect. Just read the first two paragraphs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_Estate
    Other (possibly more reliable) sources will provide the same information.

    >We’ve got a House of Commons representing, as you would expect, the general public
    Whilst it is comforting to believe this, I think we all know that in practice it falls a long way short and tends to over-represent particular interest groups.

    Yes change is needed, but need to be more focused which will in turn give greater clarity to what sort of change we are being asked to support…

  • Brad Barrows 16th Mar ’21 – 6:10pm:
    Let me add another unfairness for your consideration: we tax two identical families, earning the same family income, different amount of income tax depending on the distribution of that income.

    In this, as in other taxation matters, the UK could usefully learn from the Isle of Man…

    ‘Marriage/Civil Partnership’:
    https://www.gov.im/categories/tax-vat-and-your-money/income-tax-and-national-insurance/individuals/residents/marriagecivil-partnership/

    What is joint taxation?

    Joint taxation is optional, and where it has been requested:

    a couple will be jointly and severally liable for all of their joint tax affairs;
    a couple can use their tax allowances jointly (time apportioned for couples not resident for the whole tax year);
    tax relief for any allowable deduction will be given jointly;
    forms and correspondence will be addressed to both spouses or partners;
    a joint tax assessment will be made that maximises the benefit of allowances, deductions and tax rate bands.

  • Gillian Douglass 16th Mar '21 - 9:21pm

    Thanks for your comments. I think a flat tax rate with a progressively high tax-free threshold a particularly good idea and would generate more tax if some studies are to be believed. I’m not sure why it isn’t the building owners who are taxed at a local level for bins and street lights

  • Simon McGrath 16th Mar '21 - 10:01pm

    Gillian

    Whoever writes the cheque for local taxes, basic economics will show you it the people renting the building who will pay

  • Gillian Douglass 17th Mar '21 - 7:41am

    Yes, I understand that the costs for local taxes will be passed on but, separating out rent and taxes for basic services allows us the illusion that the rent is lower than the actual cost. I’m not an accountant but this just seems wrong.

  • Helen Dudden 17th Mar '21 - 12:01pm

    Housing is built but category 2 and 3 not catered for.
    Disabled people, still don’t get fairly treated.

  • Brad Barrows:
    Joint tax allowances were tried in Canada by their Tories when in power. It came to be viewed as a generous tax allowance for middle income families, lower income groups not earning enough to benefit.
    One of the key elements that led to a Tory defeat and Trudeau winning convincingly in 2015.
    Subsidising middle incomes groups at the expanse of lower income groups is not the way forward.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Mar '21 - 4:56pm

    We are where we are. The challenge for us as a Party is to make policy suggestions and campaign to implement them that will make the largest impact and can realistically be achieved within a certain time frame. Politics is the art of the possible or making the impossible possible depending on how optimistic you are. PR would make all this far easier.

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