The amount of tax we pay as a share of GDP is now around 37%. This is the highest in 30 years.
This is happening, now, under the auspices of a Conservative government, a party who have long claimed to be ‘the party of low taxation’.....What utter rubbish. The Tories are always coming out with such lies. It’s what they do. Naturally this is to deflect from the fact that the truth is entirely the opposite. The Conservatives are the party of stealth taxes, barely registered corporate taxes, and the promoters of tax avoidance and evasion. Their recent problems over the rise in NI contributions is entirely of their own making, and it also goes against a manifesto promise. Not that most people believe what’s in a Tory manifesto anyway. But it does show they will do anything other than raise income tax (direct taxation), in the hope that if they only raise the other forms of taxation they’ll somehow get away with it and still look themselves in the mirror and claim that yes, they’re still the party of low taxation.
In January 1992 John Major said: “I have no plans to raise the level of national insurance.” He also went on to ensure that year’s election manifesto referred to tax cutting. Of course, the following year national insurance went up. But this is classic Tory approach: say one thing; do another. And polling shows that just 1 in 4 people think they deserve the label of a party of low taxation. No wonder they were so quick to claim a U-turn was a ‘rethink’. But it was a U-turn, a huge one and we can still smell the burning rubber.
This desire not to raise income tax, but hammer the other taxes, is a catastrophic one. We need the police, the NHS, schools, the military, the fire service, but how do we fund them properly? Instead we run them down and get increases in every other sort of tax, often unfair and hitting the poorest the hardest. Now, we know why Tories want to defund public services; we know about their obsession with neoliberal shock therapy practices (we see it every day with their attitude to the NHS); we know they’re obsessed with making sure their donor mates in the City always avoid taking the tax hit.
Never has a programme of punishing the poor and rewarding the rich been so blatant. David Cameron even said that it would be bad politics to punish those who fund his party. And Cameron and his economic illiterate cutter-in-chief, George Osborne, even went as far as resisting EU-wide tax avoidance measures lest their millionaire corporate mates be affected. And now Osborne mk II Philip Hammon is continuing Cameron’s race to the bottom with talk of making a post-Brexit UK a corporate tax haven. And make no mistake, you don’t figure at all in this crazy new world.
The idea is simple: resist EU-wide tax harmonisation and ensure we’re a low-tax, low-regulation. Jeremy Corbyn’s response to this plan was spot-on, when he spoke of May’s plan to turn Britain into a “bargain basement economy.” In reality this means corporate taxation so low as to be almost non-existent, secrecy over who will benefit, and scarcely any enforcement of laws to punish wrongdoers. This from a government that’s made a show of punishing benefit claimants but cutting Inland revenue jobs, giving those guilty of tax avoidance and evasion an easy ride. (There’s been one conviction for tax fraud in the last five years, compared to over five thousand for benefit fraud in the last year alone.) It gets worse. Corporate tax specialists get ready access to the top tiers of HMRC, thus ensuring their agenda is at the top of the list.
So get prepared for the future, where the 99% bear the brunt of tax rises (VAT will almost certainly go up), and where taxation for the elite will fall off a cliff. In 1982 corporate tax was 52%, it is now less than 20%. It will probably be 15% by the time of the next election. And all this at a time when we’re crying out for major investments in infrastructure. Not only is investiment in public services looking increasingly unlikely, the new-look Brexit Britain will also mean more austerity, more job insecurity and job losses, next to no growth, and economic privations for the rest of us, the little people. And we’re little because we’re not big enough to count.
Some would already say we’re well on the way to becoming this Tory wet dream tax haven, and looking at the misery inflicted on us by the most appalling set of corporate-friendly policies you can imagine, then yes, the nightmare has already begun. And it’s only going to get worse. Unless, of course, you’re very rich and very Tory, in which case pop open the champagne and press harder on the workers’ throats as the benefits of next to no regulation come rolling in.
Max Webster is the editor of Political Provocateur