Whilst I believe some tax rates are self defeating, raising less revenue than lower rates, I do not think cutting the main rates of Income Tax or even Corporation Tax would lead to a surge of revenue in the first couple of years. Clearly VAT cuts would lose us revenue, just as a VAT increase was the one rate rise which did bring tax revenue gains. A lower tax economy will in the longer run be more successful, and will bring in more revenue as the growth accelerates.
Mr Cameron in his recent economic speech argued that the 50p to 45p tax change will bring in more revenue. I agree. I suspect lowering the rate ot 40p would bring in more as well. The current CGT rate is clearly counter productive, with a forecast fall in revenue this year. It is the most easily avoided tax, as people do not have to sell and realise gains, or they can sell something at a loss as well to offset. Why impose rates that lose revenue?
This leaves the government and its tax cutting critics at odds over the main case. “Cut tax rates”, say the radicals, “to energise the economy. In due course it will pay off, but in the meantime we might have to borrow more”. Keep rates high, counters the government. We need to show “we are all in this together, so we need to tax hard anyone who does work and invest. Try to keep the borrowing down, as otherwise we might lose the markets confidence”.
There is a mid point between these two. The tax cutters are right, that lower tax rates would stimulate more growth and create more private sector demand. It is tempting to try it. Give tax cuts to all. However, state borrowing is too high and it would seem perverse to want to increase it. The government is right that it needs to get the deficit down. So find some popular cuts in public spending that would pay for the tax cuts in the early stages, before the growth generated the extra revenue. I have often set out here easy or popular cuts. Start with getting our troops home, cutting overseas aid, sell some state owned banking assets and stop Network Rail dealing in derivatives for starters. Cutting out expenditure abroad by the UK state is doubly helpful, as the money spent does nothing to stimulate UK demand at the moment, and having to buy foreign currency when exporting the money is another force selling the pound and driving up UK inflation. I will look in more detail at this in due course.