Taxpayer manifesto: what do the manifestos mean for taxpayers?

By: Rory Meakin, research fellow


The polls open this week and voters will cast their votes to decide who represents them in parliament and, by extension, who forms a new government. So what do the manifestos say about issues important to us as taxpayers?

At the TaxPayers’ Alliance, we are a non-partisan, independent campaign group committed to lower taxes, better services and improved accountability, irrespective of party affiliations. We believe that not only do people spend their money better than politicians and bureaucrats but it’s ultimately our money anyway, and tax and spending policies should reflect that. 

We work with all political parties to put the case for taxpayers’ interests and we will never pick a side or tell our supporters who to vote for. But understanding the policies on offer from the perspective of taxpayers is important so we’ve looked at the manifestos (of the parties fielding enough candidates to make it possible to form a government should they all win) to assess what they mean for taxpayers.

On lower taxes

Taxpayers are enduring the heaviest tax burden since the winding down of wartime expenditure in the late 1940s and the OBR’s projections analysed by the TPA forecast that it will rise further still to become the highest in 80 years. So the most important question for taxpayers is: will politicians fix this problem and bring the burden back down?

None of the manifestos explicitly addresses the tax burden, although the Conservatives’ does refer to ‘the tax burden on workers’, by which it seems to mean the sum of income taxes as a share of salaries. This formulation unhelpfully distracts attention from the tax burden in its standard definition, i.e. tax receipts as a share of GDP.

The Conservatives do, however, promise ‘lower taxes’ in general and reductions in national insurance, specifically, as well as a promise to protect pensioners from their policy of freezing the personal allowance by introducing a pensioners’ personal allowance if the basic state pension rises above the personal allowance. The party has said that their tax pledges mean that the OBR’s forecasts of a tax burden rising even further are no longer valid.

Labour, meanwhile, promises to “keep taxes… as low as possible” while noting that the Conservatives have “raised the tax burden to a 70-year high”. The manifesto continues “Labour will not increase taxes on working people, which is why we will not increase National Insurance, the basic, higher, or additional rates of Income Tax, or VAT.” A similar pledge was made on the rate of corporation tax and to “retain a permanent full expensing system for capital investment and the annual investment allowance for small business.”

While making these pledges on the rates of the big tax groups, however, it pledges several tax rises on less sympathetic groups, such as a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, applying VAT to school fees and “cracking down on tax avoidance and non-dom loopholes”. They say they amount to £7.35 billion of higher receipts in 2028-29 on top of the OBR forecasts for that year. This will push up the tax burden even higher although the party claims its other policies will “kickstart economic growth to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7” which, if realised, may bring down the tax burden by expanding the GDP denominator.

The Green party of England and Wales propose the largest tax rises: £172 billion by their estimates in 2029-30, including “a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, whether produced here or imported”, a wealth tax and hikes to capital gains tax. They also want to “reform of tax rates on investment income, by aligning them with the tax and NIC rates on employment income” which raises many technical questions but could be said to align with the TPA’s ‘single income tax’ policy of a single tax on income regardless of how it is received. Inheritance tax, relief from double tax on pensions and council tax are suggested for increases, along with a new land value tax and a promise to “clamp down on tax dodging”.

Reform also proposes substantial changes. While it does not specifically pledge to reduce the tax burden it does offer significant tax cuts and a call for the economy to “become high growth, with high wages, and lower taxes”. Reform doesn’t separate its estimates of the ‘costs’ of its proposals into tax and spending categories but we estimate that the £107 billion of their £141 billion in ‘costs’ relate to their tax cut proposals (with the remainder allocated to spending areas). Many of these cuts fall on growth-damaging taxes, including income tax, corporation tax and stamp duty. So the economic effects of their tax policy proposals could be significant but this also depends on the spending being equally restrained to ensure that the supply-side enhancement benefits of reducing disincentives to produce economic output are not swamped by fiscal difficulties leading to market instability.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto proposes £27 billion of net tax rises by 2028-29. This would raise the tax burden from a forecasted 37.1 per cent of GDP (the highest except for 1948’s 37.2 per cent) to 38.0 per cent, which would be the highest on record. Nonetheless, taxpayers are offered (very small) VAT reductions, on children’s toothpaste and toothbrushes, and public charging of electric cars and given some hope when they say “our priority for tax cuts, when the public finances allow, will be to cut income tax by raising the tax-free personal allowance”. Set against this aspiration are a range of more certain pledges to increase taxes, including rises in the bank levy and bank surcharge, capital gains tax, the digital services tax and aviation taxes alongside new taxes on share buyback, oil and gas super profits, sewage (levied on water company profits), private jet flights and tobacco company profits.

Public finances

Broadly, the Conservatives and Labour both pledge relatively minor fiscal changes.  The Liberal Democrats are somewhat larger. Reform’s are much larger and the Greens’ are enormous. For example, the Conservatives estimate that their tax reductions will forego £14.4 billion in 2028-29 (or 0.45 per cent of GDP), offset by raising £5 billion from reducing evasion and avoidance (so 0.29 per cent of GDP).

such as the IFS’s Paul Johnson have expressed scepticism about whether the party really would implement the £11 billion of welfare spending reductions they pledge, however (promising to “tighten up how the benefits system assesses capability for work” and “reform our disability benefits so they are better targeted”.) Whether they would or not is a valid question but the manifesto would deliver a mandate for that, should they be re-elected.

By contrast the Liberal Democrats propose to raise taxes worth 0.8 per cent of GDP to fund the same amount of net spending increases.  Reform’s total a 3.4 per cent of GDP reduction in both spending and taxation. The Greens, meanwhile, propose increasing taxes worth a total of 4.7 per cent of GDP in 2028-29 and spending by 6.7 per cent of GDP, with the 2 per cent remainder being funded by higher borrowing.

TPA policies in the manifestos

Sadly, the manifestos are bursting with proposals that will add to the burden on taxpayers, either directly through heavier taxes and spending or indirectly through regulations that will weaken the economy and make existing taxes harder to bear.

Rather than analyse the enormous scope of bad policy a simpler exercise was to find proposals which align with TaxPayers’ Alliance policy.


  • Reducing national insurance (they say they have an ambition to abolish it when possible)
  • Scrap the Ulez expansion in London
  • Increase spending on roads resurfacing
  • Returning the civil service to its pre-pandemic size
  • Controls on EDI initiatives and spending
  • Toughen sanctions rules so people who refuse suitable jobs after 12 months on benefits can have their cases closed and benefits removed entirely
  • Raising density levels in inner London to those of Paris and Barcelona
  • Make the temporary £425,000 stamp duty threshold for first time buyers permanent


  • Kickstart economic growth to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 – with good jobs and productivity growth in every part of the country (not a policy as such but a very welcome objective)
  • A roadmap for business taxation
  • Take a more strategic approach to green belt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places. The release of lower quality ‘grey belt’ land will be prioritised
  • Invest in roads maintenance and fill 1 million potholes a year


  • Ensuring that all income is taxed at the same rates irrespective of source (albeit by raising lower rates rather than cutting higher ones, but the neutrality principle is at least admirable)


  • £20,000 personal allowance
  • Cut foreign aid by 50 per cent
  • Higher rate threshold to £70,000
  • Raise the SDLT threshold to £750,000, cut rates to 2 per cent and 4 per cent above that
  • Raise the inheritance tax threshold to £2 million
  • Cut corporation tax to 20 then 15 per cent
  • Scrap employment laws that make it riskier to hire people
  • Scrap HS2
  • Scrap Ulez
  • Scrap bans on selling petrol and diesel cars
  • Transferrable tax allowances
  • Scrap the TV licence fee
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