Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud?

Is there really anything more to David Cameron and George Osborne’s benefits clampdown than punishing the already punished?

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By David Tuckwell

The three major political parties have competed and are still competing to see who can more vociferously condemn benefits cheats. Successive governments – under both Labour and Conservative leadership – have actively campaigned against benefits cheats.

DWP-overpaymentsIt’s not if we catch you, it’s when”, and “benefits theft is a crime – NO IFS, NO BUTS” have been and still are the slogans. When current prime minister David Cameron ascended to power in 2010, one of the central pillars of his campaign was the promise to clamp down on benefits fraud.

Politicians aside, there is a lot of limelight put on benefits cheats by the UK media.

The Sun, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the UK, openly “declares war on Britain’s benefits culture”, while the Daily Mail, which has the second largest circulation of any newspaper in the UK, is prolific in its condemnation of benefit cheats (see pdf).

With all the attention that is placed on the issue, it comes as no surprise that 72% of those recently polled on the issue believe that the government should cut back on benefits.

However, the media spotlight and the political rhetoric are misleading. The most recent report published by the Department for Work and Pensions found fraud constitutes only 0.8% of total benefits payments; in absolute cash terms this equals roughly £1.2 billion (see pdf, page 1 and 13).

This is not in any way to condone benefits fraud – it is completely, absolutely and unarguably unjustifiable. But the problem has to be kept in perspective.

 


See also:

It wos the Sun wot couldn’t do maths: Prioritising benefit frauds when tax fraud is 10x worse 29 Feb 2012

The DWP’s ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is causing real harm 6 Feb 2012

Hypocrite Murdoch tells us how to vote yet avoids billions in tax 11 Jul 2011

More Mail manipulation over benefit fraud 24 Aug 2010

Cameron’s one-sided crusade on cheats 9 Aug 2010


 

Even if David Cameron were to eliminate all benefits fraud the savings would only be £1.2 bn. Interestingly, this figure – £1.2bn – is roughly the same as that HMRC estimates was generated by the recently disowned 50p tax rate (see pdf, page 46, bullet point 6.5).

Moreover, the £1.2bn lost on benefits fraud is completely overshadowed by the £15bn lost on tax fraud as Alex Hern pointed out on Left Foot Forward in February.

Despite its enormous cost, both the coalition and the mainstream media are reluctant to address tax fraud; incidentally, mainstream media bias on this subject is well known.

In “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote (page 345, footnote 119):

Both British and American Analysts have noted the periodic intense focus on – and indignation over – “welfare chisellers” by the mass media, and the parallel de-emphasis of and benign attitudes towards the far more important fraud and tax abuses of business and the affluent.

Evidence shows that the 99%+ majority of claimants do not cheat the system. Furthermore, the media limelight compounds the enormous stigma already felt by claimants. Further still, there is no evidence that cutting benefits payments successfully reduces benefits fraud.

Is there really anything more to this benefits clampdown than punishing the already punished?

 


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24 Responses to “Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud?”

  1. Foxy52

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

  2. Kat

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/VXiCl3Ag #wrb #taxfraud

  3. Foxy52

    Coalition crackdown on benefits fraud,but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/ennvo83p Only if it means they get reelected

  4. David Mullen

    It is ironic that the Sun campaigns vigorously against benefit fraud when it’s parent company is one of the biggest tax dodgers in the world.

  5. Hindle-a

    It is estimated that 16billion pounds is left unclaimed,the fact that the benefits/allowances that have the least fraud attract the biggest coverage is not coincidence.In order to “justify” the removal of many billions from the sick/disabled and their carers Ministers regularly conflate fraud and error,deliberately “confuse” DLA with IB/ESA,deem the working as “non-working” and utilise a language and a disregard for facts that shame any proper discussion.No fraud is acceptable but will always be present,all these “clampdowns” do is to garner political “brownie points” and deter the genuine from claiming-£50 for making a mistake anyone?

  6. liane gomersall

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/qVuphvXo

  7. sean

    Coalition crackdown on benefits fraud,but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/ennvo83p Only if it means they get reelected

  8. Carole

    Coalition crackdown on benefits fraud,but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/ennvo83p Only if it means they get reelected

  9. hamish jefferson

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

  10. Pam Long

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

  11. Anonymous

    Do you always ask silly questions, David?

    (Moreover, that figure includes things like the accidental overpayment of tax credits I received last year – which is more than cancelled out by overpaid tax and I’m awaiting a refund!)

  12. Anonymous

    Not to mention shifting people from working on revenue-positive tax crackdowns to revenue-negative fraud crackdowns!

  13. Pamela Heywood

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/f5ZO6fnd

  14. cameronsfollys

    [A v v good question!] #Coalition continues crackdown on #benefits fraud but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/qxJb4LlH [NOPE!]

  15. Mr. Sensible

    I fully agree, David. That’s where I think Labour can take the inniciative.

  16. Anonymous

    Whenever the wealthy do dodge tax ,which is much of the time this is framed by the right as being due to “taxes being too high”.So why when people fiddle benefits is this never due to benefits being too low ?

  17. H. O.

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/GGms3FL0

  18. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/jKphkwr8

  19. Ian Jones

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/jKphkwr8

  20. Les Seavor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/jKphkwr8

  21. Mark Smithson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/jKphkwr8

  22. Dr Marc Bush

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

  23. TheCreativeCrip

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

  24. Rohan Slaughter

    Coalition continues crackdown on benefits fraud, but will they clamp down on tax fraud? //t.co/vLmVeG1o by @David_Tuckwell

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