Personal Finance: A Taxing Experience Is an Economic Fact of Life

The Birmingham Post (England), February 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Personal Finance: A Taxing Experience Is an Economic Fact of Life


Taxation, both at central government and local level, is generally regarded as a necessary evil.

It is often seen as helping to shape the quality of our lives besides providing stable and effective government.

With the new year now in full swing, eyes are now beginning to focus on the Treasury and town halls, guessing just what is in store on April 6 - when the 2002/3 fiscal year commences.

For the majority of people in the UK, the bulk of tax liability hinges on payment of income tax and council tax. While we are at the mercy of Gordon Brown for imposing our income tax commitment, bandings from metropolitan and county councils partly rest on a formula set by the amount of central government grant received per annum.

Meanwhile, political directions pursued by local councils will determine precise levels of spending in areas such as education and social services, sometimes coupled with visible requests of the populace.

Taxation has been levied in many shapes and forms throughout the centuries, such as hearth tax and window tax, not forgetting the dreaded medieval poll tax. But income tax only dates back to 1799 when it was introduced by William Pitt the Younger as a 'temporary tax' to pay for the war against Napoleon.

The rest, as they say, is history.

With the 21st century now in its stride, Britons are working longer hours than ever before to pay the taxman. In fact, people are grafting for almost half of the year to swell the Treasury coffers.

The so-called Tax Freedom Day - the point in the calendar year when an average taxpayer has earned enough to pay off his tax obligations and can start earning for themselves - falls on June 10 this year.

That is a day later than last year and two weeks later than when New Labour took office in 1997.

This means that most of us are working 161 days a year just to pay off the Inland Revenue.

There is an implicit belief that the public at large are prepared to pay more tax in order to make this country a better place to live in - particularly when it comes to improving standards in health, schools and transport.

In all probability, those whose incomes are at levels which place them in tax-pay brackets will find themselves forking out more.

This, of course, smashes what many voters took as a promise from Labour when it swept into power. Yet, against an economic backdrop of lower growth in the UK, the Chancellor may well have his hands tied. …

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