This week, the 2020 Tax Commission published its final report (PDF). Yesterday, Eamonn Butler wrote Don’t ignore the powerful moral arguments against high taxation. I recommend the whole article, but this section is particularly compelling:
Tax reduces people’s ability to act morally. They might prefer to spend their money on helping their children become good citizens, caring for their elderly relatives, or supporting good causes. Instead they see it taken and going on bank bailouts or expensive prestige projects. Though we wish to see individuals, families and local groups taking more responsibility for their own lives and welfare, high taxes leave them less able to do so.
And when the authorities usurp our choices, we cease to be morally sovereign and responsible individuals, and become mere agents of the state. A society cannot be considered “generous” or “caring” when its care and generosity is funded on money forced out of people, rather than freely given. Giving that comes voluntarily, through the public spirit of private donors, is far more laudable morally than support that is extracted by coercion.
After inheriting an infamously long and complex tax code, the Chancellor wisely set up the Office of Tax Simplification. It has not yet produced recommendations to inspire. That’s why today I asked the Leader of the House in Business Questions for a debate on tax simplification, the 2020 Tax Commission Report and the performance of the Office of Tax Simplification.
No doubt Labour and indeed previous governments meant well when they constructed our giant and labrinthine tax system, but it is time for a meaningful and thoughtful conversation about taxation and the direction of our society.