Liberal Democrat Tax Proposals

Download Reducing the Burden: Policies for tax reform (PDF)

There are some good ideas in the Liberal Democrat tax proposals:

    • Simplification of the tax code and postcard-style returns could ease the administrative burden faced by individuals and companies.  Britain has the most complex tax system in the world, having recently overtaken India; there has to be room for simplification.
    • A cut in the basic rate would give millions of Britons some of their money back.  Very welcome.
    • Replacing the council tax would address the problem of a tax which hits the vulnerable the hardest and reduces pensioners to penury.

However, there are also some bad ones:

    • An extension of green taxes would be an inefficient way to raise revenue, would likely prove regressive and could do serious harm to British industry.  In particular, plans to increase the variation in vehicle excise duty on the basis of emissions would probably still not take lifetime emissions into account: some estimates that do include costs of construction and design suggest that a Toyota Prius Hybrid puts out more emissions than even a huge Hummer H3.
    • Taxing the rich more may appeal to social democratic notions of fairness but could do the British economy serious harm.  Estimates by the Liberal Democrats suggest that the tax bill of a City banker earning £250,000 would be increased by 11,800 pounds.  If the bank that employs that banker moved to another country to avoid the additional bill or international investment was diverted elsewhere we would all lose out.
    • There are risks to introducing a 'General Anti-Avoidance Rule'.  As the Conservative Tax Reform Commission pointed out:  "It is not easy to define exactly what such a rule should say, and experience in other jurisdictions shows that it may take some time before sufficient issues have been brought before the courts to enable to scope of the GAAR to be clarified."  Until clarity is achieved there is a lot of uncertainty in the law which exposes business leaders to unfair legal risk.

In short, a mixed bag.  Certainly an improvement over past Liberal Democrats plans to introduce a new 50 per cent tax band.  This platform would make important positive changes to the tax system by simplifying it.  If only the Liberal Democrats could get over the need to keep these changes revenue neutral they could avoid compensating measures that might undermine our economic competitiveness.

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