The Coalition planned to raise an extra £11,500 from the average family of four by 2014-15, compared to 2009-10. (June 2010 budget)
They needed all this extra tax to cut the deficit, as Labour had been spending so much more than it collected in revenue.The country cannot carry on living on a rising overdraft for ever. They also had to pay for the extra £6000 of current public spending for every family of four that the Coalition itself planned. Even allowing for the cuts in capital spending, the Coalition needed a big tax rise.
The Coalition decided to live with Labour’s proposed rise from 40% to 50% on higher incomes. They increased Capital Gains Tax from Labour’s sensible 18% to 28%. They increased Stamp Duty on property. They raised VAT to 20%.
The only one of these tax rises that produced some of the extra revenue they sought was the increase in VAT. The higher rate of Income Tax accelerated the departure and the decline of high end incomes in the UK, and revenue fell sharply. The new CGT rate is forecast to yield lower receipts this year. The high end Stamp Duty has led to a big slowdown in sales of expensive flats and houses around the £2m plus mark in Central London, hitting revenues and mobility compared to estimate.
The government has stuck to its current spending plans. The going gets tougher on these next year, when there are smaller increases than in the first three years. It is trying to buttress its falling tax revenue compared to forecast by exhortation and loophole closing. It is seeking the elusive extra billions from rich people and companies that all hard up governments seek.
On Friday I was reminded by Andrew Neil on the BBC Politics programme just how far and fast the UK Tax Code has expanded under this government. As smart accountants, lawyers, tax advisers and Finance Directors find new legal ways round the tax code, so the Treasury hits back with yet more loophole closing measures.
If you want to collect more tax there is a simple motto you need to follow – fewer breaks and lower rates. Higher rates and more breaks is never going to bring in enough revenue for this high spending state. It is merely going to produce an ever bigger and more complex tax code. It creates more division and bitterness within the society,as groups squabble over whether everyone is paying enough tax. The richest are the ones who can afford to leave altogether, or who can rearrange their affairs to avoid tax legally whatever the regime.