Briefing: the rising tax burden

The Office for Budget Responsibility releases monthly data compiling figures on the public finances. Analysis of 74 years of parliamentary terms and tax burden data up to 2024-25 in the April 2024 release[1] shows that the current parliament is set to have raised the tax burden more than any other since 1950. As previous research has shown,[2] governments which raise the tax burden typically lose elections and vice versa suggesting that voters pay attention to the impact of taxes. With income tax thresholds frozen and personal taxes rising, despite cuts to national insurance contributions, it is clear why the tax burden is set to increase to an eight decade high.




Key findings

  • In 2023-24, the tax burden as a percentage of GDP fell by 0.3 percentage points from the 2022-23 figure to 36 per cent. This is the first time the tax burden has fallen as a percentage of GDP since 2019-20 when it fell by 0.7 percentage points from the 2018-19 figure to 33.1 per cent.
  • The tax burden is forecasted to rise every year from 2024-25 up to the end of the forecast period in 2028-29.[3] The forecast shows the tax burden standing at 37.1 per cent in 2028-29, this would be the highest tax burden in 80 years.
  • The forecasted tax burden for 2028-29 means that only the tax burden in 1948, of 37.2 per cent, would surpass it.[4]
  • The current parliament is set to have increased the tax burden by more than any other single parliament since 1950 as a percentage of GDP, raising it by a forecasted 3.3 percentage points. The next largest increase in the tax burden by a parliament occurred after Harold Wilson’s second general election victory with the 1966 to 1970 parliament increasing the tax burden by 3.0 percentage points.
  • The 1951 to 1955 parliament cut the tax burden by the largest amount as a percentage of GDP with it falling by 5.1 percentage points.
  • Total managed expenditure, the sum of public sector expenditure, net investment and depreciation, reached its post-war peak during the coronavirus pandemic. As a percentage of GDP, it accounted for 53.1 per cent in 2020-21. This is set to consistently fall until it reaches 42.5 per cent of GDP in 2028-29, the end of the forecast period.
  • By 2028-29, total managed expenditure as a percentage of GDP is forecast to be equivalent or more than every pre-pandemic year between 2013-14 and 2019-20, with it standing at 44.1 per cent in 2012-13.




[1] Office for Budget Responsibility, Public finances databank – April 2024, 25 April 2024,, (accessed 3 May 2024).

[2] TaxPayers’ Alliance, Briefing: election results and the tax burden in election years, February 2024,, (accessed 3 May 2024).

[3] Office for Budget Responsibility, Public finances databank – April 2024, 25 April 2024,, (accessed 3 May 2024).

[4] Ibid.

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