So now we know. The Treasury have finally published figures they’ve been sitting on for years but never revealed (always keep the rich on side – a good Treasury motto). It shows there are 10,000 UK taxpayers paid (‘earning’ is a bit of a euphemism) £1-5m (i.e. between £19,230-£96,155 PER WEE), and 1,000 of them pay just 30-40% in tax, 500 pay 20-30% in tax, and 300 pay less than 10%. It also shows that there are some 400 taxpayers paid £5-10m (i.e. roughly between £100,000 – £200,000 PER WEEK), and 20 of them pay less than 20% in tax. Much more modestly, if you’re only paid between a quarter and a half of a million (i.e. a mere £4,800-£9,615 PER WEEK), then about 100,000 persons in your category are paying less than the higher rate of income tax of 40%. The question is: are these gigantic sums, up to 415 times the national average wage, justified and if not, what are we going to do about it?
First, let all the facts be known. Let the fresh breezes of transparency blow through the income scale at the top. It is significant that the only reason we know about these figures quoted here at all is not because of any new doctrine of openness (you must be joking), it’s because the Government were trying to put up some defence of their gross miscalculation in limiting tax relief for the rich, by showing that the super-rich get away with avoiding far too much tax.
It blew up in their faces because the Tory press (Telegraph, Mail and the usual suspects) all ganged up to complain this was an unfair tax on philanthropy – not that they care about philanthropy, only about not limiting tax avoidance in general since the vast amount of tax avoidance is not about philanthropy at all. Significantly almost the only intervention that Tony (Tory-boy) Blair has made in UK politics since his demise 5 years ago was his call yesterday for the government to “think again” about limiting tax relief. But we should be grateful for small mercies – it’s always important to remember that the general population of us plebs is only vouchsafed information about the secret doings of our rich rulers when there’s an almighty bust-up within their own ranks.
So to avoid all this unseemly shenanigans amongst our super-rich exemplars, why don’t we require HMRC to publish the tax returns of all those paid more than £150,000 a year (i.e. the 300,000 persons getting more than £3,000 a week)? That would only affect 1% of the population, and could be guaranteed to play a big role in reducing tax relief across the board, exposing the multiple use of tax havens, and even (heaven forbid!) reducing some of this financial obesity flab altogether.