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Comments

Mike Christie

A splendid briefing, emphasising why we should be arguing the many benefits of lower taxation.

However I'm afraid the last couple of lines :

This example reminds us that perhaps the most important policy before either stability or tax cuts are sought is to decide how much public spending the country can afford, the items on which you want to spend it, and why.

just left me chuckling in memory of this exchange :

Sir Humphrey: "Taxation isn't about what you need."
Jim Hacker: "Oh, what is it about?"
Sir Humphrey: "Prime Minister, the Treasury doesn't work out what they need to spend and then think how to raise the money."
Jim Hacker: "What does it do?"
Sir Humphrey: "They pitch for as much as they think they can get away with and then think what to spend it on."

It is a very good point on which to finish a discussion on tax. We won't win the argument on lower tax until we win the argument that government bureaucracy has no more place in the actual provision of everyday services like healthcare and education than it does in getting the food on our table.

Jock Coats

Some interesting pointers to those of us, not just Tories, who are currently reviewing tax policy.

I wonder at what point the feasibility (everyone's now an expert in whether one plan or another will "add up") became more important?

We seem to tie ourselves up in knots of minutiae of tax policy to please the IFS and the like. No problems of course having to meet some standard of whether a policy is sensible, but we should do so in a broader policy context.

What we all need to persaude the electorate of is whther or not they are overall sensible ideas, not necessarily terribly detailed goals and working of how to achieve them - we are making tax policy hostage to fortune.

I will blog about the lessons from these thoughts later I suspect William, thanks!

Wat Tyler

Excellent summary William

Of course, the economic landscape was very different in the 70s and it was easier to sell tax cuts on the basis of the growth/efficiency argument. Today, most people reckon the economy's doing fine, so tax cuts aren't needed.

But people can certainly buy into the waste argument, and can see that all the extra public service dosh hasn't delivered.

The next step is to convince people that there is another way on public services. The Reform agenda that takes government out of the loop and eliminates all that waste, but doesn't mean the end of healthcare etc.

Tax cuts are part of giving people choice over their own health and education provision.

Yes...but you already knew that. The problem is how to convince others.

Denis Cooper

The complexities of the tax system don't just affect business, and it could even be argued that they bear most heavily on the individual taxpayer - who of course is also a voter. If we could each bill the Chancellor for the cost of the time we have to waste meeting the requirements of the tax system then he might think twice before making it more and more complex. Too many of us are having to spend too much time and effort dealing with the Inland Revenue, which itself is having to employ too many people for the sake of relatively small sums.

I have a long list of gripes about the inanities of the personal tax system, built up over thirty years, but the one which takes the biscuit for me is the comparatively new child tax credit. The idea was that the limited money available would not be spread thinly as a universal benefit, eg simply increasing child benefit, but would be carefully targetted on those who needed it most. Whether or not that was a good idea in principle, in practice the system is so complicated and administered with such incompetence that the object has been defeated.

It's possible to try to be too clever, and child tax credit is a prime example.

Does George Osborne have any children, by the way?

Jock Coats

I have blogged a little about this article. It's very thought-provoking, thanks!

Eric B-P

The issues for the local elections are an example of the essential difference of approach between Conservatives and everyone else. Others start by identifying requirements for expenditure, and then decide how to raise the funds to meet them - while we look first at what we have available to spend, and then we try to prioritise where it is most needed.
All of our other principles flow from our fundamental instinct that we should never contemplate further spending until we can be satisfied that we are getting full value for what is currently spent - and also that essential services should be run most efficiently in the interests of the public in priority to the convenience of the departments responsible.
The debate for the voters will always turn on the conflict between the burden of taxation versus inadequate services - and socialism has now proved conclusively that you can spend excessively without solving the problems.
However, promises of tax cuts (equalling less spending obviously) could frighten more voters away from us than we gain from their undoubted popularity amongst those who would probably vote for us anyway.
This should not be dismissed as merely a past failure of presentation that might not fail again next time (a familiar argument as regularly used by the left) but a very real danger of lost support from vast hordes of people whose livelihoods or lifestyles are significantly affected by public expenditure, both directly and indirectly.

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