New ASI paper: Non-Sense

Out today is a new ASI briefing paper examining Ed Miliband’s proposal to end the non-dom provision in the UK tax system.

It says:

  • Being a UK resident with non-domiciled status simply means that one does not intend to remain indefinitely. The tax system requires residents to be taxed on their foreign income. Non-doms resident in the UK elect to be taxed on either the arising basis (their worldwide income is taxed automatically) or the remittance basis (they are only taxed on worldwide income if they bring it to the UK). 2008 reforms mean that after 7 years of UK residence, non-doms who choose to be taxed in the latter way must pay a yearly fee of £30,000 (rising to £50,000 after more years of residence).
  • Ed Miliband has claimed that there are 116,000 non-doms but this ignores those of the UK’s 400,000 international students and 6 million foreign-born workers who did not have to file a self-assessment form and those who did file it but did not tick the non-dom box. It is estimated that something like 1 million are not permanent residents, so are by definition non-doms.
  • The rules introduced by Labour (and supported by the Tories) in 2008 ended up only hurting less wealthy non-doms and did nothing to really wealthy ones: electing to be taxed on a remittance basis benefits only those with very high foreign incomes.
  • While most countries tax worldwide income of residents, a significant number including the UK have exemptions for certain people (mostly foreigners) so that they only pay taxes on local income.
  • There is a substantial literature showing that tax systems are very important in deciding where top talent goes. It tells us that punitive changes to the UK tax system could discourage the most valuable potential immigrants from footballers to inventors.
  • Changing how we determine someone’s domicile is likely to have unintended consequences. First, making it easier to acquire a new domicile might reduce inheritance tax receipts, as UK domiciled residents of foreign countries currently pay UK death duties on their worldwide estates. Second, changes to the concept of domicile would have repercussions in other areas of law, such as matrimonial matters and determining the validity of wills.
  • The ethical justifications for Ed Miliband’s view that it is immoral that non-doms do not pay tax on their foreign income are deeply contentious. There is no principled moral case for taxing more than local income.

You can read the full paper here

Logical Fallacies: 20. Argumentum ad numeram


The final instalment in Madsen Pirie’s series on Logical Fallacies; here he looks at the ‘argumentum ad numeram’.

You can pre-order the new edition of Dr. Madsen Pirie’s How to Win Every Argument here

Logical Fallacies: 19. Wishful thinking


In his penultimate video on logical fallacies, Madsen Pirie takes a look at ‘wishful thinking’.

You can pre-order the new edition of Dr. Madsen Pirie’s How to Win Every Argument here

Logical Fallacies: 18. We must do something


The latest logical fallacy examined by Madsen Pirie is the idea that ‘we must do something’.

You can pre-order the new edition of Dr. Madsen Pirie’s How to Win Every Argument here

ASI’s Budget 2015 wishlist: A tax code that actually makes sense

Nobody designing the UK’s tax code from scratch would come up with one like the system we have now. Our taxes are complicated and inefficient and divert capital away from productive investments that would boost economic growth. This year, we’re hoping for a Budget that reforms the tax code in line with the best economics out there, reforming the worst taxes and cutting the tax burden on investment and the working poor:

VAT: broaden the base and use the money to help the poor

The huge number of exemptions to VAT make the tax so inefficient that if we raised the rate to 20% on every good we could compensate every household and still have a few billion pounds left over. If, instead, we raised every good to the 20% flat rate, but compensated only households earning less than median income, we’d have billions left over to reduce the deficit. The money raised should be given back to people on low pay through tax credits and to create a higher national insurance contributions threshold, which would increase the incentive to work on the other end.

Capital Gains Tax: abolish it outright to boost growth

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is an extremely inefficient tax on capital that reduces overall investment and raises just £5bn annually. CGT reduces investment, ‘locks-in’ capital to less productive investments and can be avoided by not investing in assets that will rise in price, so it is distortionary and ends up directing investment away from riskier assets like start-up business debt. Scrapping CGT would not cost a lot (and could be paid for with the money left over from the VAT broadening, above), and would boost investment and growth, boosting wages across the board.

Business rates & council tax: revalue with a view to eventually merge

Business rates & council tax are in theory some of the least bad taxes on the books. As long as the values they are levied on are kept up-to-date, they reduce economic activity much less than most taxes. But in the modern world house prices and land prices move rapidly and not uniformly. The North is currently being hammered—paying business rates far higher than their property deserves—the South is winning out with unfairly cheap payments. Council tax is even worse: the band system is out-of-date and should be replaced with a fluid penny in the pound system like rates, while the revaluation long postponed from 1993 should be done now and then kept constantly up-to-date. If Zoopla can get good estimates of property values then surely HMT can too. Eventually the two systems should be merged at the same rate, so that housing and business both go where they are most in demand.

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.