Will Boris Tax Britain to Death?
If you thought the coronavirus lockdowns were bad for economies, wait until you see how governments pay for their relief spending. The United Kingdom is offering an early glimpse, and the results aren’t pretty.
A major debate about tax policy is breaking out as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak reckon with the 20%-of-GDP hole that pandemic relief has blown in the budget. No responsible government can long ignore a deficit of that magnitude, but a more realistic government would focus on growing its way out. This would involve ending the draconian and ineffective national lockdown, and then using strategic tax and regulatory reforms to stimulate investment and job creation.
随着英国首相鲍里斯·约翰逊(Boris Johnson)和总理里希·苏纳克(Rishi Sunak)考虑到疫情救援在预算中造成的占GDP 20%的缺口，一场关于税收政策的重大辩论正在爆发。任何负责任的政府都不能长期忽视如此庞大的赤字，但一个更现实的政府会专注于增长自己的出路。这将包括结束严厉且无效的国家封锁，然后利用战略性税收和监管改革来刺激投资和创造就业。
Mr. Sunak instead is looking at raising taxes. One proposal in a report from the government’s Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) would raise capital-gains tax rates nearer to the rates on personal income. The target supposedly is carried interest in the private-equity and hedge-fund industries, where returns from investments are taxed at a capital-gains rate of 28% rather than the 45% income-tax rate for highly paid firm partners.
Private-equity firms make an inviting political target, but the media focus on carried interest obscures all the other forms of capital gain on which the OTS suggests harmonizing tax rates with the income tax. That includes the equity that entrepreneurs build up in small businesses. Anyone who thinks the U.K. would prosper by adopting the highest capital-gains tax rate in the developed world—and by doing so right after Brexit—has been in lockdown too long.
Meanwhile, the center-left Resolution Foundation is giving Mr. Sunak bad ideas. One is taxing the “excess” profits arising from the pandemic, such as those earned by supermarkets and online retailers.
It also wants an income-tax hike up and down the income distribution—including a freeze on the standard exemption and current brackets so that inflation lifts more middle-income taxpayers into higher tax rates. The think tank is right that a threshold freeze would be easier to sneak past voters than an outright tax increase, which is why there’s a risk the government could embrace this approach.
Some people see the danger. The center-right Centre for Policy Studies and the U.S.-based Tax Foundation recently released their tax plan for Britain, in which they focus more on business investment and economic growth than higher taxes. Their ideas, such as rationalizing property taxes for businesses and implementing 100% expensing for capital expenditure, are Britain’s best hope of boosting revenue by stimulating investment and hiring. Alas, that’s not the mood Britain’s politicians are in at the moment.
有些人看到了其中的危险。中右翼政策研究中心(Centre For Policy Studies)和总部设在美国的税务基金会(Tax Foundation)最近公布了他们对英国的税收计划，其中他们更关注商业投资和经济增长，而不是更高的税收。他们的想法，比如理顺企业财产税，对资本支出实行100%的支出，是英国通过刺激投资和招聘来增加收入的最大希望。唉，这不是英国政客目前的心情。
The conspicuous feature of these revenue raisers is that they lean heavily on the middle class. Yes, even the capital-gains proposals. The kerfuffle over private-equity carried interest obscures how little revenue is at stake—around 420 million a year, if no investors decamp from the U.K. If they do, the tax will raise less. Mr. Sunak has spent hundreds of billions of pounds on pandemic relief.
The OTS report also suggests such anti-middle-class proposals as reducing exemptions for the capital gains that arise when an entrepreneur starts a successful small business. And the report suggests reducing the tax-exempt threshold for gains to as low as 2,000 from the current 12,300. This would ensnare thousands of middle-class taxpayers, and it’s where the real money is in a capital-gains tax heist because these taxpayers are less mobile.
OTS的报告还提出了一些反中产阶级的建议，比如减少创业者创办一家成功的小企业时产生的资本利得的免税。报告建议将免税门槛从目前的12,300 GB降至2000 GB。这将使数以千计的中产阶级纳税人陷入困境，而这正是资本利得税抢劫案中真正的钱所在，因为这些纳税人的流动性较差。
The political left is at least honest that there isn’t enough revenue to be raised from one-off levies on big companies or green taxes to fill the fiscal chasm the pandemic has opened. The Resolution Foundation notes the main impact of these proposals is political—they make the accompanying middle-class tax hikes more palatable.
That makes Britain’s tax debate very similar to what’s emerging in the U.S., especially as progressives claim that taxing the rich, or fossil fuels, or something else will be enough to pay the government’s bills. They won’t come close, and their real point is to disguise the hit on the middle class. America, you’ve been warned.