Working for the taxman

For most people, buying something means working to pay for it. The more expensive something is, the longer we have to work to earn the money to buy it. But how much of the time we spend working to buy something is needed to pay for the purchase itself, and how much is time spent working for the government to pay taxes?

This paper shows how much longer someone on average earnings has to work to pay for an everyday purchase and how much of that time is spent working for the government to pay taxes – or at least the taxes that can be easily identified. It is not possible to accurately attribute many taxes (such as business rates, corporation tax and the aggregates levy) to either labour income or retail prices, so these results underestimate the time required to pay tax and overestimate the time needed to make the purchase itself.

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