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BBC R4 Tax Survey

Survey of public attitudes towards tax conducted for BBC Radio 4 published 11 September 2010.

Date Published: 10 Sep 2010

Categories: Economy | Politics | Public and communities | UK


BBC Radio 4 poll reveals tax-payers’ attitudes to British tax system


British taxpayers say they would prefer to have a simpler and easier to understand tax system, even if it means they have to pay more tax as a result.


In a ComRes poll carried out for a new BBC Radio 4 series presented by Evan Davis (Evan Loves Tax -13th - 15th September, 9.00am), 74 per cent of people agreed with the statement: “I would like taxes to be simpler, easier to understand and harder to avoid – even if it means I pay a little more tax myself.”


The poll also suggested a difference in attitudes towards tax between the generations. Young people aged 25 to 34 were consistently the least positive towards taxation and people aged 55 to 64 were the most positive.


Evan’s programme kicks off a week long series of programmes on Radio 4 focussing on taxation and pay. Danny Finkelstein investigates issues surrounding pay in two programmes on 16th and 17th September. On Sunday, September 19th, BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders chairs a debate about pay and tax.


In Evan Loves Tax, Today Programme presenter and former BBC Economics Editor Evan Davis explores how the UK has ended up trying to pay for a European-style welfare state with American-style tax levels.


He meets four former Chancellors – Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and Alistair Darling - who talk candidly about their stints steering the tax system.


He finds out why, since the Second World War, public spending has just kept on rising, even when it was decided that paying for it by putting up income tax was unthinkable.


Former Gordon Brown advisor Michael Jacobs tells Evan why he thinks Labour missed an opportunity to coax the nation away from seeing tax as a necessary evil, towards embracing it as the foundation of a civilised society.


He finds out why our tax system is so complex and how politicians who have tried to simplify it still bear the scars.


The poll carried out for the series also showed that 54 per cent of people feel the tax they pay do not benefit them as much as they would if they could spend it themselves, but said they are happy to pay taxes because “it is the right thing to do”.


A quarter of respondents said the tax they paid does benefit them as it pays for the services they use.  Strikingly, people in social groups AB (30 per cent) and C1 (31 per cent) were more likely then people in social groups C2 (20 per cent) and DE (19 per cent) to say the taxes they pay benefit them as it pays for services they use.


When asked which taxes the government should target to fund public spending, two thirds of people said they would prefer revenue to be raised from taxes other than the basic rate of income tax. However a quarter of people said they would prefer the government to increase the basic rate of income tax.


More than half of all people polled, 58 per cent, felt they are taxed at the right level. But more than a third, 34 per cent, feel they are taxed too heavily. People aged 55 and over were less likely to feel they are taxed more heavily than they should be (29 per cent). But this figure rose to 44 per cent when posed to people aged between 25 and 34.


Thirty-nine per cent of respondents who work full-time think they are taxed more heavily than they should be.


Danny Finkelstein presents two programmes on Radio 4 examining pay. In the first part of Can Pay, Will Pay at 9.00am on Thursday 16th September, Danny investigates why pay for those at the top has become so high. He asks if the market is working properly and he hears from campaigners for the lowest paid workers. The second programme, on Friday, 17th September, explores what different jobs pay and why sometimes people doing similar jobs get paid different amounts. He questions why a train driver earns almost twice as much as a bus driver and why some airline cabin staff earn much more than others. And he looks into why tall and beautiful people apparently earn more!


On Sunday, 19th September, at 5.00pm, Stephanie Flanders chairs Pay and Tax: The Radio 4 Debate.





Notes to Editors


-      ComRes interviewed 1,009 British adults by telephone between 2nd and 4th July 2010. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all British adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables may be found on the ComRes website

-      Evan Loves Tax is part of a week-long season of programmes on BBC Radio 4 focussing on pay and taxation. Other programmes include Can Pay, Will Pay, 9.00am on 16th and 17th September ;and  Pay and Tax: The Radio 4 Debate at 5.00pm on Sunday, 19th September.



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