Tax helps to build a country we can be proud of – government must end giveaways to the rich

The Green Party is investigating an inheritance tax overhaul


If you want to know why tax is important, visit your local A&E.

Most of us have sat in a hospital waiting room while doctors and nurses who — often exhausted from long shifts — check charts, write prescriptions, dress wounds and, ultimately, save lives. Most of us have been to our local park too, most of us went to school here and most of us will need care when we get older. And most of us will have seen these services at breaking point.

The reasons are varied, but at the core of the problem is one short word: tax.

For many years now successive British governments have chiselled away at taxes for high earners and corporations, but after the financial crash the Tories put tax slashing into overdrive. The vision of a low tax, small state society has been imported from the US and Brexit threatens to take our tax plunge even deeper.

The Prime Minister has proposed making corporation tax the lowest of the world’s 20 richest countries at 17 per cent, with the prospect of this falling below 15 per cent. And it’s not just big business getting government handouts. George Osborne’s decision to give tax cuts to the highest earners in the country by raising the highest tax bracket exposes the lie that Britain cannot afford to support the disabled, and the injustice of the £4.4billion of disability benefit cuts he announced on the very same day.

It was particularly shocking to see the Labour party support this giveaway, which benefits just the top 15 per cent of earners.

We should be asking the biggest corporations to pay double what the Prime Minister wants, at a rate of 30 per cent, while small businesses that would genuinely benefit from a lower rate should get it, at 20 per cent. Raising the rate of income tax for the top one per cent of earners to 60 per cent could raise £2bn and reduce the gap between highest and lowest earners.

But if we really want a tax system fit for the 21st century, which is fair and where power and wealth are shared, then we need to embrace big ideas. That’s why at the Green Party Spring Conference last week I pledged, with Caroline Lucas, to investigate how we can overhaul inheritance tax so wealth is shared more fairly.

For too long the tax system has allowed an elite to accumulate wealth and pass it from generation to generation, entrenching inequality and concentrating power. The Green Party wants inheritance tax to be paid on the wealth of the recipient, not the donor.

With Article 50 triggered this week Britain is in very real danger of becoming a tax haven on the edge of the Atlantic, ill-equipped to tackle the problems we face, but the Green Party has a different vision.

It’s not radical to say that a redistributive tax system is the bedrock of a civilised society and it is time to have an honest conversation about tax, before our welfare state is damaged beyond recognition. And let’s not forget that the myth of self-made millionaires is just that, a myth. From the roads the millionaires walk on, to the hospitals they were born in and the universities where they studied in — everyone benefits from taxpayer funded public services.

When the Government slashes tax and gives free money to the rich these are things which are at stake — the NHS’s ability to care for people in crisis; social care for the elderly, people who have spent their lives paying into the system on the understanding they would be cared for in their old age; a welfare state which does not allow those who cannot work because of sickness or disability to slip through the net.

These are the things which make our country one we can be proud of — and they are worth paying for.

Jonathan Bartley is co-leader of the Green Party. He Tweets @Jon_Bartley

See: Green leaders accuse Labour of ‘trading their red flag for a white flag’ on Brexit

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