Matt’s view: Top earners deserve to pay more tax

George Osborne in the House of Commons

George Osborne in the House of Commons - Credit: Archant

It’s that time of year again when George Osborne opens his big red box and reveals his latest Budget.

Prior to the Chancellor’s announcement on Wednesday, much of the talk among politicians focused on the top earning 40% tax bracket. That is, people on salaries of more than £41,450 who see more than a third of their income disappear to line the government’s coffers.

Some MPs feel the threshold is too low.

Tory David Ruffley said: “The people who are low paid have had tax reductions. Hasn’t the time come to focus on people who are not rich but the striving middle? People who do not consider themselves to be remotely rich or privileged now find themselves paying 40p in the pound.”

I find this kind of bleating to be laughable, not to mention pretty distasteful from a man whose basic salary is more than £66,000 a year. “While it is true that those on low incomes have benefited from recent tax breaks, they have also had to deal with a raft of other measures, such as the bedroom tax and reductions to benefits, which have left many people unable to do basics like feed their families or heat their homes. Are there many people in the top tax bracket who face similar troubles? It seems unlikely.

While Mr Ruffley and his chums cry for those in Middle England, it’s worth noting that, according to figures published in The Guardian, only 15% of people in this country fall into the 40% tax bracket. Though this figure is a lot higher than it was when the tax was introduced in 1988, it’s extremely disingenuous to suggest it represents the “striving middle”. Certainly I can report that, in my experience, few local newspaper journalists are likely to trouble the £40,000-plus group, and I suspect it is a similar story in many other professional lines of work.

Nobody likes to pay extra tax, but as a society we need to look after the poor, not penalise them. If this means those at the top of the salary ladder have to pay a bit more, then so be it.