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 Council tax is even worse: the band system is out-of-date and should be replaced with a fluid penny in the pound system like rates, while the revaluation long postponed from 1993 should be done now and then kept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 firstname.lastname@example.org | 07584 778207.