Coalition's deficit reduction has made UK tax base more regressive

June 16, 2014
Coalition's deficit reduction has made UK tax base more regressive
SPERI research on food banks

Taxation in the UK has become increasingly regressive since the financial crisis, particularly since the coalition government came to office, according to academics at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

The latest evidence on tax revenue shows that progressive taxes such as income tax and capital gains tax contribute 54 per cent of total tax receipts, down from 58 per cent five years earlier. In contrast, regressive taxes such as VAT contribute 28 per cent of total tax receipts, an increase from 25 per cent.Tax

Research found that of all the major forms of taxation, VAT has taken on an increasingly prominent role, due to a rise in the rate to 20 per cent, and the greater volume of goods it is levied upon.

VAT revenue has risen from £81 billion, accounting for 16 per cent of tax revenue, to £101 billion, 18 per cent of tax revenue.

The has explicitly sought to reduce business taxes such as corporation tax. Accordingly, business taxation now contributes 12 per cent of total tax receipts, down from 14 per cent five years earlier.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts even further falls in business tax revenue, with receipts declining to 11 per cent of the total by 2017/18. A lower tax burden for business is due to become an enduring feature of the UK tax base.

In contrast, the OBR forecasts a partial rebalancing towards progressive taxes, away from regressive taxes, over this period. Yet this prediction is based on the expectation of strong average earnings growth – which forecasters have been consistently wrong about since the recession.

The report by the University of Sheffield's SPERI Research Fellow Dr Craig Berry and Department of Politics researcher Dan Bailey highlights the character of the coalition government's approach to deficit reduction in terms of tax, with forms of tax that fall most heavily on the least affluent groups targeted as sources of additional revenue.

Dr Berry said: "The UK tax base has, to some extent, been transformed by the economic downturn and its aftermath, and reforms undertaken by the coalition government. It is clear that the UK tax base has become more regressive.

"The trend away from progressive taxes may reverse in the next few years – if the economic recovery proves sustainable, which is far from certain. Yet the tax base will not revert in full to its pre-crisis balance, and the prediction that it will is based on earnings growth forecasts which are highly debateable.

"We know that the coalition government has sought to achieve deficit reduction primarily through spending cuts, which hit the poorest hardest. But it is clear the portion of deficit reduction enabled by increases also has an increasingly regressive character."

Explore further: 'French to make 1 bn euro tax claim against Google'

More information: The full report can be viewed at

Today's publication is the fifth in a new series of SPERI British Political Economy Briefs.

Through this series SPERI hopes to draw upon the expertise of its academic researchers to influence the debate in the UK on sustainable economic recovery.

Related Stories

'French to make 1 bn euro tax claim against Google'

February 4, 2014

French authorities have decided to make a tax claim of 1 billion euros against Google following a probe into the tax strategies by the US Internet giant, Le Point magazine reported Tuesday.

EBay takes first quarter loss on tax charge

April 29, 2014

EBay recorded a loss in the first-quarter due to a hefty tax charge on foreign earnings, but revenue jumped as more customers shopped at its e-commerce site and its PayPal payments business stayed strong.

Bangladesh plans 'green tax' for polluters

June 5, 2014

Bangladesh is to unveil a new "green tax" Thursday that will force polluting factories to pay extra levies as it looks to clean up the country's increasingly dirty rivers and air, an official said Thursday.

Recommended for you

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

Search for Egypt's Nefertiti gains new momentum (Update)

September 29, 2015

The search for ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti in an alleged hidden chamber in King Tut's tomb gained new momentum as Egypt's Antiquities Minister said Tuesday he is now more convinced a queen's tomb may lay hidden behind ...

New finds of a living fossil

October 2, 2015

The coelacanth fish, found today in the Indian Ocean, is often called a 'living fossil' because its last ancestors existed about 70 million years ago and it has survived into the present - but without leaving any fossil remains ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 20, 2014
"VAT revenue has risen from £81 billion, accounting for 16 per cent of tax revenue, to £101 billion, 18 per cent of tax revenue." This is an interesting statistic in this post. It is a figure which is about to increase with the implementation of new EU VAT rules on B2C sales of electronic services in January 1, 2015 . The UK Exchequer has already predicted a £1.2 billion VAT boost between 2015 and 2018 from the VAT reform.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.