Coalition deficit reduction has made UK tax base more regressive

The coalition's deficit reduction plan has increased the overall tax burden on the poor, says new study.

The coalition’s deficit reduction plan has increased the overall tax burden on the poor, says new study

The tax system in Britain has become increasingly regressive since the financial crisis as a result of the coalition’s aggressive deficit reduction plan, according to a new study.

Research by the University of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) found that progressive taxes such as income tax and capital gains tax now contribute 54 per cent of total tax receipts, down from 58 per cent five years ago. Meanwhile regressive taxes such as VAT contribute 28 per cent of total tax receipts, up from 25 per cent.

The research found that VAT had taken an increasingly prominent role in tax raising in recent years, increasing from £81 billion (accounting for 16 per cent of tax revenue) to £101 billion (18 per cent of tax revenue). VAT is generally considered a regressive tax as the poorest households tend to have the highest VAT burden.

In contrast, since the coalition came to power in 2010 it has sought to reduce business taxes such as corporation tax. Business taxation now contributes 12 per cent of total tax receipts, down from 14 per cent five years ago.

Business tax revenue is also likely to fall further, according to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), with receipts predicted to drop to 11 per cent of the total by 2017/18.

However the OBR also predicted that the trend away from progressive taxation may reverse in the coming years – but only if the economic recovery proves sustainable.

University of Sheffield research fellow Dr Craig Berry, who co-authored the report, said that the UK’s tax base had been “transformed by the economic downturn”:

“It is clear that the UK tax base has become more regressive...The trend away from progressive taxes may reverse in the next few years – if the economic recovery proves sustainable, which is far from certain. Yet the tax base will not revert in full to its pre-crisis balance, and the prediction that it will is based on earnings growth forecasts which are highly debateable.

“We know that the coalition government has sought to achieve deficit reduction primarily through spending cuts, which hit the poorest hardest. But it is clear the portion of deficit reduction enabled by tax increases also has an increasingly regressive character.”

You can read the report in full here.

Follow James Bloodworth on Twitter

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

6 Responses to “Coalition deficit reduction has made UK tax base more regressive”

  1. robertcp

    I am not sure if I agree. Income tax is now more progressive than under Labour. People earn more before they start paying income tax, more people pay the 40% rate and the top rate of 45% is higher than under Labour. This has been offset to some extent by the VAT rise and some of the changes on benefits are a disgrace. So it is a mixed situation.

  2. Leon Wolfeson

    Income tax is far from the only tax, and the generally middle-class tax break of income tax threshhold rises…which often has no impact on the lowest paid!

    The article is about the net result.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Most of the “recovery” is not in fields subject to reasonable levels of taxation…

  4. The Conversative

    You know, Sweden has a higher rate of VAT as well… damn those regressive Swedes.

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    …One reason they have such a high level of redistribution. It’s government give and take for poorer people.

    In theory, you can lower VAT and have less of a need for redistribution,
    The reality, is, however, that they DO redistribute, and hence rich people – who pay VAT – actually pay a reasonable share of tax from it.

Comments are closed.