Labour’s slogan that they will not allow tax cuts for millionaires is a slippery one. A millionaire used to be someone who owned £1 million of assets. These days a lot of people are millionaires, because they live in a one bed flat which they own in central London, or because they own an executive home in a good location in many parts of the UK, along with some pension savings for their retirement. They may not have a large income. Some millionaires are standard rate taxpayers only. I want tax cuts for all, and have no problem with someone with a pleasant house and pension savings qualifying for a tax cut.
What Labour now sometimes means by a millionaire is one of the very few people in the UK who earns £1 million in a single year. There are a few footballers, singers, financial executives and entrepreneurs in this tiny privileged group that bare the brunt of Labour’s ire about excessive rewards. Conservatives, I can assure the Shadow Chancellor, are not pondering schemes to award this small group special tax cuts, but nor do we think that if we increased the tax rates on this group it would solve the nation’s financial problems. There are not enough of them and not all of them would stay and pay.
It is a great pity that the UK debate is mesmerised by the word millionaire, and that it is used in such different ways so that it muddles the conversation. It is also a pity that jealousy drives much of the debate on taxation. Of course someone on a mega income should pay a lot of tax on it. We also need to bear in mind that an individual may only be able to enjoy mega earnings for a brief part of his or her life, so allowing them to save some money for the future also makes sense. We need to remember that if we try to tax too much the earnings can often be shifted elsewhere, so the UK ends up with no tax from that person.
Sensible taxation is based on balance and judgement, not on jealousy and revenge. I want to see tax cuts for standard rate payers, and a higher 40% threshold for starters.