Listening to Adam Smith Institute

Whilst accountants, pundits and politicians are poring over the finer details of the PBR in preparation for the Commons debate, the Conservative front bench should cast their eye over a briefing paper produced by the Adam Smith Institute on raising personal allowances.

It is, quite simply, an excellent proposal that is succinctly summarised by the author, Tom Clougherty, on the Adam Smith blog.
  • Raising the personal allowance to £12,000 would take 7 million low-paid workers out of the income tax net altogether. People earning the minimum wage or less would pay no income tax at all.

  • To the average worker, this would be like getting an extra £1,730 a year in gross pay, leaving them £100 per month better off and reversing the substantial falls in disposable income that have occurred over the last 12 months.

  • If the Chancellor wanted to give this measure retrospective effect for the current tax year, it would mean a one-off £1,800 'Christmas rebate' for the typical dual-earner family, plus £200 per month thereafter.

  • This tax cut would put almost £19bn per year back in people's pockets, allowing considerable additional spending and investment in the productive, private sector economy. This is the key to overcoming recession and restoring economic growth.

  • As well as stimulating the economy by giving people more disposable income to spend and invest, raising the personal allowance to £12,000 would strengthen incentives to work, help to eliminate the 'benefits trap' and make low-paid jobs more economic – greatly increasing opportunities for the unemployed.

  • If the higher rate threshold were kept at its current level, rather than raised in line with the personal allowance, this policy would cost the Exchequer just £18.9bn a year in lost revenue (it would cost £25bn if we raised the higher rate threshold too). Of course, this calculation is based on a static analysis, and because of the effects outlined above, the actual loss could turn out to be smaller.

  • Either way, I argue strongly against the government financing this tax cut with increased borrowing, suggesting they balance it by reducing public sector waste and cutting spending on non-essential programmes instead. The taxpayer already spends more than £30bn a year on servicing government debt, and we shouldn't add to that burden when there is so much fat to be trimmed elsewhere.

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