A UK case study
Jérôme De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Cristina Santos
The issue of taxes has always been a highly politicized one in the UK, and never more so than in 2009 as the UK government weighed how best to rebalance its budget after rescuing its banking sector while its economy suffered its most severe financial crisis since the 1930s. Debates about taxes, however, tended to focus mainly on the overall level of taxation and government expenditure and on distributional effects among households. With the exception of the work of the Women's Budget Group, a think tank that regularly comments on the gender implications of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual budgets, little attention has been paid to the gender aspects of the taxation system. In particular, there has been little debate about what effects any proposals for tax rises to pay for a 2008 stimulus package, or for bailing out the banking sector, are likely to have on both men and women.
This chapter seeks to address this gap by analysing some gender aspects of the United Kingdom's personal income tax system and its expenditure taxes. Taxes have both distributional and behavioural impacts and both of these can be gendered. In this chapter we consider impacts on both inter- and intra-household inequalities, as well as whether taxes reinforce or challenge existing gender roles.
Following a brief overview of existing gender inequalities in the United Kingdom, its tax system and fiscal changes brought about in the past 30 years, this chapter will present a gender analysis of the UK personal income tax system, including its tax credits. It will then analyse the incidence of expenditure taxes on households of different gendered types before the 2008 stimulus package, and simulate the impact of the stimulus package as well as some alternative policy options. Finally, it presents a set of policy proposals based on these analyses and considers the extent to which taxation could be used to tackle gender inequalities in the United Kingdom.
In order to assess the gendered impact of taxes, we need to understand the nature of gender divisions in the United Kingdom. The inequalities that are most