Tory leadership: The major issue where Rishi Sunak is different to everyone else

File photo dated 18/05/22 of former chancellor Rishi Sunak who has announced he will stand to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. Issue date: Friday July 8, 2022.
The former chancellor has avoided pledging so any tax cuts so far in his leadership campaign. (PA)

Tax cutting has emerged as the key battleground in the race to be the next Tory leader with the candidates promising to chop contributions by billions – with one notable exception.

Rishi Sunak has distanced himself from the rest of the pack by refusing to pledge uncosted tax cuts, claiming he will not sell voters “fairytales”.

It comes as the UK faces the highest tax burden in 50 years, according to forecasts from the UK's fiscal watchdog.

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Economists and former Tory chancellors are among those criticising candidates for promising vast tax cuts – without explaining how they'd pay for them.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, watched by wife Carrie Johnson (centre holding daughter Romy), reads a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, formally resigning as Conservative Party leader after ministers and MPs made clear his position was untenable. He will remain as Prime Minister until a successor is in place. Picture date: Thursday July 7, 2022.
Boris Johnson resigned on Thursday after his government collapsed. (PA)

Here's what each candidate has said about taxes:

Rishi Sunak

Sunak has positioned himself as the fiscal realist in the contest by refusing to promise immediate lower taxes, instead pledging to "get the economy growing" as a priority.

The former chancellor used his campaign lunch to take a swipe at his rivals, saying their tax promises were "not credible".

Sunak said: “It is not credible to promise lots more spending and lower taxes.

“I had to make some of the most difficult choices of my life as chancellor, in particular how to deal with our debt and borrowing after COVID.

"I have never hidden away from those, I certainly won’t pretend now the choices I made and the things I voted for were somehow not necessary.

“While that may be politically inconvenient for me, it is also the truth. As is the fact that once we’ve gripped inflation, I will get the tax burden down. It is a question of when, not if.”

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He is currently the bookies' favourite going into the leadership contest, and has so far enjoyed the most MPs coming out publicly and backing his leadership bid.

Sajid Javid

The former health minister has pledged to cut fuel duty by 10p, scrap the national insurance rise from 2023, bring forward the 1p income tax cut by 2023, and scrap the upcoming corporation tax rise.

Sajid Javid speaks during the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at the Cinnamon Club in London. Picture date: Monday July 11, 2022.
Sajid Javid entered the Tory leadership contest after resigning as education secretary last week. (PA)

Nadhim Zahawi

The chancellor has pledged to cut income tax, review business rates, and cancel planned corporation tax rises.

He has said this will be partially funded by 20% cuts to government departments.

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Liz Truss

The serving foreign secretary has pledged to reverse the national insurance hike and lower corporation tax.

Grant Shapps

The transport minister has pledged to reduce the basic rate of tax by a penny in the pound immediately if he wins the leadership contest.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaving Millbank Studios in London. Picture date: Wednesday May 18, 2022.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss is among the bookies' favourites to be the next leader of the Conservative party. (PA)

Jeremy Hunt

The chair of the health select committee on Monday appeared to suggest he wanted to cut “all taxes”.

However, his more specific plans include cutting corporation tax to 15%, and cutting business rates.

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Suella Braverman

The attorney general has pledged to cut VAT on energy bills and reduce the planned corporation tax hike.

Tom Tugendhat

The foreign affairs select committee chair has pledged to reverse the National Insurance hike, reduce fuel tax, and drop “un-conservative” tariffs.

Penny Mordaunt

The trade minister has said she wants to cut taxes, but has so far not said which ones.

File photo dated 12/03/20 of Penny Mordaunt, who has said, Britain is expected to sign its first economic pacts with American states next month and secure an arrangement with Texas by October.
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt has been branded a dark horse in the Tory leadership contest. (PA)

Kemi Badenoch

The former equalities minister has said she will reduce personal and corporate taxes - but added she won't engage in “tax bidding war".

Rehman Chishti

The backbencher has said he seeks to cut taxes to help with the cost of living, but is yet to outline which ones.

Watch: Rishi Sunak and other Conservative hopefuls announce leadership bids to replace Boris Johnson - with more expected this weekend