Conservatives promise tax cut for pensioners with 'triple lock plus'

The Conservatives have promised to cut taxes for pensioners by creating a new "age-related" tax-free allowance - dubbed "triple lock plus".

Currently, people can receive £12,570 a year of their pensions before they start paying income tax on them - the same figure as the personal allowance for those who work.

But if the party wins the general election, a pensioner's allowance would rise in line with either average earnings, inflation or by 2.5% - whichever is higher - from next April, echoing the rules on annual state pension increases.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the move "demonstrates we are on the side of pensioners", and would bring people "peace of mind and security in retirement".

But Labour's shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth called it "another desperate move from a chaotic Tory party torching any remaining facade of its claims to economic credibility".

He added: "Why would anyone believe the Tories and Rishi Sunak on tax after they left the country with the highest tax burden in 70 years?"

The Liberal Democrats said the Conservatives had "hammered pensioners with years of unfair tax hikes", adding: "People won't be fooled by yet another empty promise from Rishi Sunak after this record of failure."

The Conservatives first brought in the triple lock when they were in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010 to tackle pensioner poverty, saying the annual rise would protect retirees from hikes in living costs, and both Labour and the Lib Dems have promised to keep it in place.

However, while the state pension has continued to rise, the threshold for when both pensioners and those of working age pay income tax has remained frozen since April 2021 when Boris Johnson was in power, meaning some of those on lower incomes have been brought into paying tax.

This new measure would change that for pensioners, with a "guarantee in legislation that the pensioners' personal allowance will always be higher than the level of the new state pension" - but not for younger workers.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Sunak dodged the question on whether he had "given up on young voters", instead saying: "What I believe is that if you work hard all your life, you should have dignity in retirement."

But asked whether the move for pensioners was an acknowledgement the Conservatives had raised taxes by introducing the threshold freezes three years ago, he said: "I think most people... recognise that the country has been through an extraordinary amount, the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine, both of which meant that the government stepped in to support people.

"And I think people recognise that that meant some difficult decisions in order to ensure that we could control our debt and borrowing and not leave our kids with bills.

"But now that that plan has worked, inflation has come down from 11% to 2%, wages are rising and the economy is growing, we're also able to cut people's taxes."

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The Tories said eight million people would save around £100 next year and gain further savings each year as the tax-free allowance grew, with the £2.4bn a year policy paid for through "clamping down" on tax avoidance and evasion.

But Labour's Mr Ashworth hit back, saying: "Not only have they promised to spend tens of billions of pounds since this campaign began, they also have a completely unfunded £46bn policy to scrap national insurance that threatens the very basis of the state pension.

"Labour will protect the triple lock. But Rishi Sunak is planning to reward Britain's pensioners for their loyalty by stabbing them in the back, just like he did to Boris Johnson and just like he has done to his own MPs."

Also on Tuesday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves made her first major speech of the general election campaign.

She promised to lead "the most pro-growth, pro-business Treasury" in the UK's history in a speech at a Rolls Royce plant in Derby.

"Today, I want to put forward a simple proposition: that this changed Labour Party is today the natural party of British business," she said.

Ms Reeves also pledged to "never play fast and loose with the public finances".

It comes after more than 120 business leaders, including chef Tom Kerridge and Wikileaks founder Jimmy Wales, signed an open letter giving their backing to Labour to "achieve the UK's full economic potential".

The Liberal Democrats turned their attention to crime on the campaign trail, pledging to introduce a "burglary response guarantee" so all domestic burglaries are "attended by the police and properly investigated".