This is a guest post written by Jonathan Chilvers.
Jonathan leads a homeless project and is part of Jubilee Church Leamington. He takes care to consistently contravene the ‘no religion or politics’ rule at dinner table wherever he goes.
Last week Liberal Democrats were happily displaying ‘I love the 50p tax’ badges at their conference. It’s a fair bet that George Osborne won’t be proudly pinning one to his suitacase as he travels North for the Tory version next week.
He’s not the only one.
Scrap the tax?
Instead well paid ‘business experts’ in the UK have been pushing and shoving to grab the chance to explain why the 50p rate of tax for earnings over £150000 must be scrapped. It will “damage the economy” claims one, “punishes entrepreunership” shouts another; “Economically inefficient– an unhelpful symbol” yells a third.
“Economically inefficient” is economist speak for the problem that the more you raise tax the more wealthy people pay their accountants to avoid paying tax. No one knows whether the 50p rate will make any money.
A problem of pride
But the truth is that it doesn’t matter.
This is not an economic problem. It is a social and moral one. It’s seen as fair game amongst too many (not all) wealthy circles to go to whatever lengths possible to stop the tax man. It wouldn’t be “economically inefficient” if people paid what was intended.
We all like to rationalize that what’s in our own self interest is also in the greater public interest. Yet most of the arguments churned out are at essence one of collective pride – you need, you can’t do without ‘people like us’ and therefore no-ones going to mind if we don’t pay a bit of tax.
Yes, we do need entrepreneurs.
But we don’t need entrepreneurs that are put off from hard work because they believe that an additional £5000 tax on an income of £200 000 is ‘punishment’. (They should try moving from benefits into work – the effective tax rate is over 90%).
We need entrepreneurs who take risks to build profitable businesses which explicitly aim to create good quality jobs at a living wage, whilst protecting our environment. That takes creativity, flair and dedication.
These are the entrepreneurs we need.
So, yes the 50p tax rate should be symbolic.
Symbolic that we as a nation will not tolerate people who believe that they can get rich ignorant of the social and environmental context of which they are part.
Symbolic that an effective, honest security guard is just as important to our society as a securities-dealing hedge fund manager.
Symbolic that whilst we are not naïve to the profit motive that we will not allow ourselves to be held captive by a greed driven economy.
We need as many people’s God-given gifts and skills as possible to rebuild the UK economy after the worst recession since the 1930s, but if you can’t accept paying the 50p tax, please don’t moan or dissemble. Just leave us to it. We’ve got a job to do.