Monday, August 28, 2006

Mr Osborne Meets TPA Tax Poll

Osborne joining TPA

Mrs T and I were away over the weekend so missed the coverage of the Taxpayers' Alliance tax poll. Many interesting findings, including:

  • people hold the political parties and system in contempt, but they are strongly attracted to messages of real change
  • more than one in five is seriously considering or “planning” emigration; they have no hope that the current system can fix our problems
  • strong opposition to public funding for political parties (65 – 21%)
  • very strong support for the idea of “Executive Government” (or Tesco Government); people agreed (73 – 23) that the constitution should change to allow non-MPs to be brought in as Ministers
  • support for directly elected mayors to be in charge of police (57 – 36)
  • people agree by 56 – 17 that reform of services would allow tax cuts without reducing spending on vital services
  • top three choices for tax cuts are council tax, inheritance tax, and raising the 40% income tax threshold
  • crime is the top priority for all sections of society including Labour voters, next violence in schools; the cost and effects of the benefit system (3rd); and tax rises (4th); not one person in the focus groups mentioned “the environment” or “green issues” once

The poll has received widespread media coverage, including the frontpage lead in the Sunday Times (full poll is here). It's a sharp reminder to Dave's Conservatives that real people out here still think they could spend their own money a lot better than politicians, and are sick to the back wossnames of self-promoting politicos who reckon otherwise.

Coincidentally George Osborne announced his very first proposed tax cut! Given the leadership's previous on any tax-cuts, anything is to be welcomed. But why choose the abolition of Stamp Duty on share trading? It certainly isn't one of the TPA's top three, and to the extent that people have actually heard of it, they imagine it's something that mainly impacts overpaid City share traders and top-hatted plutocrats. It hardly seems like one for the common man.

When last officially sighted Stamp Duty on shares was raising £2.7bn pa, and according to the IFS it is Britain's very cheapest tax in terms of collection costs.

Now £2.7bn may be chickenfeed in terms of our total half-trillion tax burden, but you could still do some useful stuff with it. You could nearly abolish the highly unpopular Inheritance Tax (£3.6bn pa). Or, according HM Treasury's tax ready reckoner, you could increase the equally unpopular and highly distortionary 40% tax threshold from £35,450 to about £42,000 (see here for previous blog).

And if the figure's now £4bn pa, as others suggest, you could abolish IHT completely and still have £400m left over. Or (given the shape of the income distribution) you could probably raise that 40% threshold close to £50,000.

Which really would give our economy an adrenaline rush.


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