Stealth taxes are harder to detect and are therefore popular with politicians but it is often poorer people who are hit hardest by them.
"The Art Of Taxation Consists In So Plucking The Goose As To Obtain The Largest Number Of Feathers With The Least Possible Amount Of Hissing."
- Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Chief Minister to King Louis XIV.
To do something “stealthily” is to do something cunningly – even dishonestly – in order to avoid detection and – on that basis - many of Mr Brown’s 66 tax rises (as at December 2004) have been stealth taxes. Stealth taxes provide politicians with a back door route to higher taxation whilst allowing them to avoid breaking their carefully-worded promises not to raise the level of more transparent taxes – like income tax.
John Major’s Tory Government did not have clean hands in revenue-raising matters - using tax receipts from the National Lottery and the introduction of taxes on air travel to boost the tax take. It is Labour, however, that has perfected the art of stealthy taxation.
Gordon Brown’s stealth taxes
Since Gordon Brown entered Number 11 Downing Street the hard-pressed British taxpayer has borne:
- a failure to keep tax bands rising in line with inflation or earnings (as with inheritance tax and the top rate of income tax);
- big rises in regressive stealth taxes that fall disproportionately on the poor – notably council tax but also duties on fuel, tobacco and drink;
- the abolition of the married couples’ allowance and mortgage interest relief; and
- a major attack on future security with a £5bn annual tax on pensions and a reduction in the amount that can be saved without incurring tax.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance has been formed to keep track of the ever more inventive ways in which governments exact money from voters.