Voters back a “mansion tax” on expensive properties to fund priorities like the NHS, social care and the fight against climate change, according to new polling released ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget.
The BMG survey for The Independent found an overwhelming 73 per cent would be prepared to pay more tax to boost spending on the health service, against just 8 per cent who would not, while 61 per cent would pay more to improve social care (13 per cent opposed) and 51 per cent were ready to see their tax burden rise in order to help combat global warming (20 per cent opposed).
Asked what taxes Mr Sunak should target to raise funds for public services and investment, voters favoured levies on wealth rather than income or consumption.
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A mansion tax on properties worth over £1m was supported by 63 per cent, with just 16 per cent opposed.
And there was 62 per cent support for new higher-rate council tax bands for properties worth more than £1m, with only 15 per cent opposition. Almost half (49 per cent) said they would back a new wealth tax levied on the total value of an individual’s assets, with less than a quarter (23 per cent) rejecting the idea.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “This poll reaffirms Labour’s view that people agree with us that we need a fair tax system.
“This Budget needs to reverse the Tory tax giveaways to the rich and corporations and invest in our NHS and social care for our elderly. People clearly increasingly want action on climate change, another of Labour’s priorities.”
And Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey said: “Even before coronavirus, our country was facing a crisis in social care and the NHS. These figures show the public are now willing to see tax rises to deal with the UK’s health and care crises, as Liberal Democrats have been arguing.
“This is an important poll as it means ministers now have no excuse to continue to do nothing – not least on climate action where support has grown considerably.”
Boris Johnson is understood to have discussed the option of a mansion tax with former chancellor Sajid Javid before his resignation last month, but is said to have “cooled” on the idea after negative reactions from Conservative MPs and voters.
Government sources have said it is “highly unlikely” the idea will feature in Wednesday’s Budget.
Strongest opposition to a mansion tax in the BMG poll was voiced by Tory voters, with 24 per cent opposing it. But even among Conservatives there was a majority (55 per cent) in favour. Labour voters backed the idea by 72-11 per cent and Liberal Democrats by 70-10.
A mansion tax was backed by all age groups, with the narrowest margin of support – 51 to 22 – found, perhaps surprisingly, among 18-24 year-olds. Some 29 per cent of those in households with incomes over £60,000 opposed it, against 55 per cent who were in favour, while the split among those with incomes under £20,000 was a decisive 68-8 in favour.
Even in London, where the highest numbers of £1m-plus properties are concentrated, the policy was supported by 62 per cent and opposed by just 17 per cent. It was most popular in the northeast and West Country (both 73-10) and Scotland (70-14).
Council house residents supported the mansion tax by 65-10 and housing association tenants by 69-9, but the idea was also backed by home-owners with mortgages by a margin of 59-16 and those who own their property outright by 63-20.
In an interview shortly after he walked out of government after refusing Mr Johnson’s demand for him to sack all his advisers, Mr Javid said he had been planning to cut 2p from the basic rate of income tax in the Budget at a cost of £10bn a year.
But with coronavirus set to inflict a heavy financial burden on the Treasury, and Mr Johnson needing to find funds for ambitious infrastructure projects including the HS2 rail line and superfast broadband, Mr Sunak is thought more likely to have to increase taxes.
He is understood to be considering a £3bn raid on entrepreneur’s tax relief, and may end the decade-old freeze on fuel duties.
Fuel duty was an unpopular option for a hike, with just 18 per cent saying it should be increased, against 53 per cent who thought the freeze should stay.
There was support for another tax raid understood to be under consideration for the Budget, with 42 per cent backing the removal of tax breaks on pension contributions for higher-rate income tax payers, against 21 per cent who opposed it.
At the moment, basic rate payers enjoy 20 per cent tax relief on money they put into their pension, boosting the value of the pot they build up for when they retire. But those on higher and top rate income tax get relief at 40 or 45 per cent.
Equalisation could save the Treasury £10bn a year, but would reduce the future pensions of wealthier workers and would hit the young particularly hard, as a greater portion of their working life would take place under the less generous regime.
Fifty-six per cent of those questioned said they would like to see higher taxes on corporations, against 13 per cent who did not. And those questioned supported a digital services tax on multinational internet-based companies by the same margin.
Mr Johnson cancelled a planned cut from 19 to 17 per cent in the rate of corporation tax during the general election campaign, declaring it would save £6 billion which could be spent on the NHS. And he is pressing ahead with a digital services tax on income earnt by internet giants in the UK from April, despite pressure from the US to drop it.
The poll found little appetite for rises in income tax – opposed by a margin of 47-20 – VAT (62-10) or stamp duty on house purchases (48-19). But there was backing for further increases to so-called “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco, with 56 per cent saying they should be raised, against just 20 per cent who opposed a hike.
Overall, 39 per cent of those questioned said they felt that they personally were paying too much tax, against 10 per cent who thought they paid too little and 40 per cent who believe current levels are about right.
The age-group feeling most overtaxed were 18-24 year-olds, with 49 per cent saying they paid too much. Just 8 per cent of Tories felt they personally should pay more tax, against 13 per cent of Labour voters and 15 per cent of Liberal Democrats.
Other areas where voters were prepared to pay more tax were funding for schools (backed by a margin of 54-17), defence (40-27) and infrastructure, including roads and railways (43-24).
But there was lukewarm support for paying any more for Mr Johnson’s priority of “levelling up” different areas of the UK, with just 28 per cent saying they would pay more tax to achieve it and 29 per cent opposed. Just 17 per cent said they would pay more for international aid.
The idea of an annual mansion tax on valuable properties was first floated by Vince Cable in 2009, though Liberal Democrats later moved away from the policy. Ed Miliband put a tax on properties over £2m in Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 election, saying it would raise £1.2bn a year for the NHS.
The poll showed Conservatives increasing their lead over Labour, with 45 per cent (up four points on a similar poll in February) compared to 28 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn’s party (down one) and 11 per cent for Liberal Democrats (unchanged).
Voters were split on Boris Johnson’s performance as prime minister, with 51 per cent satisfied and 49 per cent dissatisfied, while Mr Corbyn continued to plumb the depths of unpopularity, with 77 per cent dissatisfied.
Keir Starmer held onto his lead as favoured successor to Mr Corbyn with the support of 19 per cent of voters, against 10 per cent for Lisa Nandy and 8 per cent for Rebecca Long-Bailey. Ms Long-Bailey was more popular among Labour voters, with 14 per cent support to 23 per cent for Starmer and 11 for Nandy. But even among Labour supporters, 37 per cent said they did not know who they wanted to win and 11 per cent replied “none of the above”.
BMG questioned 1,498 British adults between 3 and 6 March