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A few simple things the Chancellor could have done

When government and the Treasury have no understanding of the role of land in the economy, not only do they impose policies that will have the opposite effect to that intended; they will also fail to see opportunities for simple interventions that would have wide-reaching benefits. We do not expect a British Chancellor to introduce anything like the tax reforms the Campaign is advocating, but with a proper grasp of underlying principles he could usefully have made the following changes.

  • Cut stamp duty to a flat-rate amount needed to pay for the Land Registry costs.
  • Increase the UBR
  • Increase Council Tax in the higher bands from the present ratio in which the top band is liable to only three times the charge for band A.
  • Raise income tax and NI thresholds, preferably to the equivalent of a 40 hour week at the national minimum wage
  • Increase standard rate tax to compensate for the loss due to higher thresholds.

All the “stimulus package” stuff is complicated and probably useless, and motivated only by governments pathological inability to stop meddling and tinkering. Some of the measures are positively mischievous. The national minimum wage is to rise by 2.2 per cent to £5.93 an hour, which can only lead to an increase in unemployment. Why do it when an increase in tax thresholds would have had the same effect without driving up labour costs?

Endless proliferation of taxes

Then there is the chronic tendency to the endless proliferation of taxes, as we see with the new telephone line levy of 50p a month, a hypothecated charge to pay for the expansion of broadband. It is certainly not going to be abolished when its purpose is done, and in any case telephone services are already subject to VAT. These extra taxes cost money to set up and run, so what is the point of them?

If a Chancellor cannot drive through simple, obvious and overdue measures, he is not fit to do the job.