At last! Something worth commenting on in what must be the dreariest election in living memory. Or perhaps ever.
The problem is that the election isn’t really about policies – it’s about who we trust (or least mistrust) to handle Brexit.
But it’s an election and so you have to have policies about everything because everything that isn’t Brexit doesn’t grind to a halt.
After Work’s policies on pretty much everything can be found under the category Election 2015. As far as financial matters are concerned, 2015 saw a toe dipped into the troubled waters of Inheritance Tax, but nothing more.
On the whole, I take the view that the nation’s finances are big and complicated and something that I’m not really qualified to comment on. One should, however, retain an open mind on these things and be prepared to change the said mind in the light of new information.
The first piece of new information is the fiscal programme of most political parties which can be summarised as:
Them: “We’re going to spend more money on schools, hospitals and [insert voter’s pet project here]”
Voter: “That’s nice.”
Them: “And you won’t pay a penny more in tax.”
Voter: “That’s nice. So how are you going to pay for everything?”
Them: “We’re going to get people to pay more tax – but not you, obviously – other people.
The second new piece of information is the arrival of my 2016/17 P60 and the revelation that I now pay less in income tax than council tax – and that’s before things like Gift Aid.
As a citizen I expect to pay my fair share and this is simply not fair. And there are too many people in this situation – the situation where a lower income doesn’t just mean less to go round to begin with – it means that there’s less to go round because a higher proportion gets raked back in taxation.
To be clear, I am not pleading poverty. One of the bullets that politicians need to bite is that, whilst retired people have lower incomes, they also have lower outgoings – we must abandon the knee-jerk reaction that equates retirement with poverty. The situation of working people is equally iniquitous because of the role of National Insurance which hits lower paid people disproportionately.
So here’s some policy:
1. Abolish National Insurance and roll it up into Income Tax on a revenue-neutral basis. This will benefit lower paid people disproportionately and simplify the tax code.
2. Abolish the free TV License and add the value to the state pension.
3. Abolish the winter fuel allowance and add the value to the state pension. At the same time, improving the housing stock and tackle the energy companies who are the real beneficiaries.
4. Make the State Pension graduated on the basis of age, whilst retaining special provisions for people who are disabled or have special care or medical needs.
The idea of “old and infirm” is another concept that is well past its sell-by date – most people these days remain active well into their 70s – gradually increasing the pension with age would help target money at the most needy whilst helping to balance the books and making money available for services for those at the needier end of the spectrum.
5. Tackle Council Tax – there has got to be a better way of funding local services than taxing people on the notional value of property that may have no relationship to their ability to pay. Consider a local income tax to retain the link between local authorities and residents whilst taking account of the ability to pay.
6. Review VAT. VAT is a regressive tax that is expensive to administer. Once we leave the EU we will have the opportunity to review it, remove anomalies, abolish ridiculous concepts like the 0% tax rate and possibly abolish it altogether in favour of simple purchase taxes
7. Abolish Road Tax and VAT on petrol and roll them up into a consolidated petrol tax.