I’m growing to really dislike the phrase “hard-working taxpayers”, especially when it’s used to talk about how much money they will apparently save because of some scheme or other. I came across it again while I was reading an article about the devastating impact of the Bedroom Tax on residents in Liverpool. I expect I will feel moved to write about that outrage at some stage, but for now, I want to concentrate on the claim from the DWP that “This reform will save hard-working taxpayers almost £1bn”
Let’s be clear. No reform of any sort will “save” any taxpayer any money at all. Taxpayers will still be paying exactly the same amount of tax, and even if the “reform” saves any money (which, in this case, I sincerely doubt), it will just be spent on something else. Personally, I’d rather pay for cohesive social communities than Trident. The current economic deficit means that it will be a long time before any reduction in Government spending has any chance of leading to tax cuts.
But this aside, I still have an issue with the phrase “hard-working taxpayers”. It conjures up an image of people working their fingers to the bone only to have all their money taken away by the taxman. I exaggerate, but let’s think of tax differently. It is our contribution to the common good, our citizens’ commitment to one another. It is one of the ways we have a share in our common humanity and support each others’ wellbeing.
And please let us remember that not everyone who works hard pays income tax. There are plenty full-time carers, homemakers and community volunteers who do not receive any remuneration for their work. And there are many who work hard but at low paid jobs who do not reach the income tax threshold. (This is another bugbear of mine, when politicians raise the tax threshold and then claim to have helped the poorest. No. The poorest weren’t paying tax anyway because they are poorly paid on low hours or zero-hours contracts.)
Actually, even the unpaid and low paid are still busy paying taxes every day – VAT, fuel duty etc. These taxes have been steadily rising while income tax has been falling, yet these taxes are hidden from sight and have a greater impact on the poor than the rich. And so to talk about raising tax thresholds to take people out of tax is nonsense, it only applies to income tax.
So let’s get away from this image of the hard-working, hard-pressed, poor old burdened taxpayer. Instead, why not rejoice if you earn enough to pay income tax and can contribute to those things you have benefitted from, and which have enabled you to earn as you do? And let’s value people and companies who feel the same and want to contribute their fair share. I’ve come across some websites which are trying to quantify which companies are good taxpayers. One is Tax Ticked and the other is Fair Tax, which was flagged up by 38 degrees last week. I can’t vouch for their content – see what you think.