Labour Backbone Needed on Tax Reform

As the LibDems show all the signs of being toast at the next election, it’s easy to take some pleasure from their discomfort as they thrash about trying to put some ‘yellow’ water between themselves and their Coalition partners through vague talk of higher council taxes for larger properties and a crackdown on tax evasion.

But these are limited measures, whose real purpose is to act as a smokescreen. If they were serious, they would be considering the sort of wealth taxes seen in France, Norway and even parts of Switzerland, where taxes are levied on total assets, including property, investments and bank deposits, above a defined threshold. They might also consider a land value tax. Such measures would not only tackle the far greater disparities seen in wealth than in income, but also allow a shift from regressive indirect taxes as well as a more productive use of assets (the ‘use it or lose it’ principle). And while they’re about it, why not restore HMRC staff levels so they can really get to grips with corporate as well as individual tax avoidance and evasion, and do something about the many tax havens controlled by the UK.

But I’m forgetting this a party fully signed up to the austerity agenda and the attack on the welfare state! More interesting will be the extent to which Labour at its party conference next week start to show some backbone on these issues.

Chris Guiton

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