Conservatives push through 1,000 tax rises in past 10 years

Christopher Hope
·3-min read
Since 2010, the most net tax rises happened during David Cameron’s leadership - Anadolu Agency/Anadolu
Since 2010, the most net tax rises happened during David Cameron’s leadership - Anadolu Agency/Anadolu

Conservative Prime Ministers have pushed through more than 1,000 tax rises at a rate of roughly one every three days over the past decade, according to new research.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance found that the Government has made 1,651 tax changes since 2010, 63 per cent of which - 1,034 - were tax rises.

VAT, vehicle excise duty and income tax saw the most changes under a succession of Conservative Chancellors going back to George Osborne.

The research will be seen as a surprise to some Tory voters who will have supported the party at general elections on its promise of keeping taxes down.

However former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood said: “I am not surprised. When I have voted for Budgets, I often have had to do so through gritted teeth.”

He added: “The way to get more revenues is to have realistic and lower tax rates.”

The total amount collected in tax will increase by £172 billion in real terms between 2009-10 and 2021-22, according to figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Since 2010, the most net tax rises happened during David Cameron’s leadership, with both the greatest number of tax changes and tax rises in a single year in 2012/13.

Mr Cameron also oversaw the biggest number of tax cuts in a single year, cutting 83 taxes in the last full year before the 2015 election. Under Theresa May, there were over twice as many tax rises as there were cuts.

Boris Johnson is so far the only leader since 2010 to introduce more tax cuts than rises. This is largely due to the temporary tax cuts and new reliefs to tackle the economic effects of covid-19.

Indeed the only year since 2010 with more tax cuts than rises was 2020-21, with 78 of the 151 tax changes being cuts. Britain already has the highest sustained tax burden in 70 years and hiking taxes now would mean further austerity for taxpayers.

In all Income Tax was the most fiddled with tax, being changed 180 times over the past 10 years. It went up 61 times, and was cut 119 times.

National Insurance was changed 130 times - increasing 64 times and being cut 66 times, while alcohol duty was altered 125 times, the overwhelming majority - 114 - were increases in the tax.

The Alliance is calling for a recovery budget on Wednesday, giving taxpayers a respite from rises, rescuing struggling sectors and reviving the economy.

Labour has also called for Mr Sunak to avoid increasing personal taxes during the pandemic.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “The tax burden is at a 70-year high, and it's not hard to see why after a decade of tax increases.

“All too often we've seen Conservative chancellors give with one hand but take back a good deal more with the other, meaning every aspect of everyday life comes with a sizeable tax bill.

“This Budget offers the government an opportunity to break with their predecessors from the last decade by giving taxpayers a respite from tax rises.”

A Conservative source said: "Over the last year the government has stepped in to protect jobs and support people through this unprecedented crisis to the tune of almost £300billion.

"We went big and we went early to help those hit hardest and there's more to come next week.

"But the Chancellor is also going to level with people about what this crisis has meant for the public finances. The British people elect Conservatives because we have a track record of managing the public finances responsibly, and that's not going to change now."