Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tax the rich to pay the deficit

Greg Philo has a solution, and it's been road-tested for popularity:

The total personal wealth in the UK is £9,000bn, a sum that dwarfs the national debt. It is mostly concentrated at the top, so the richest 10% own £4,000bn, with an average per household of £4m. The bottom half of our society own just 9%. The wealthiest hold the bulk of their money in property or pensions, and some in financial assets and objects such antiques and paintings.

A one-off tax of just 20% on the wealth of this group would pay the national debt and dramatically reduce the deficit, since interest payments on the debt are a large part of government spending. So that is what should be done. This tax of 20%, graduated so the very richest paid the most, would raise £800bn. A major positive for this scheme is that the tax would not have to be immediately paid. The richest 10% have only to assume liability for their small part of the debt. They can pay a low rate of interest on it and if they wish make it a charge on their property when they die. It would be akin to a student loan for the rich.

The tax would be extremely popular. We commissioned a YouGov poll of over 2,000 people to test attitudes. There was very strong support, with 74% of the population approving (44% strongly approving). Only 10% did not approve, and agreement was spread right through social groups, with those of the highest income being slightly more supportive than the lower. The strongest support came from those over the age of 55, with 77% in favour (47% strongly). This is an extraordinary result given that there has been no public discussion of this proposal and that the very negative consequences of the alternatives are only just beginning to emerge.