Tax Justice UK, September 2020
Serious tax reform is on the political agenda for the first time in decades due to the coronavirus crisis. As this debate hots up it is important to understand what people think about public spending, wealth and tax.
Tax Justice UK, along with Survation and the University of Sheffield, has conducted a major research project into public attitudes in the UK.
The research has resulted in a list of ideas for campaigners which has relevance in New Zealand:
Ten takeaways for campaigners
- Give people hope that the system can change. People are often cynical
and fatalistic about the tax system, especially when it comes to the
behaviour of big companies, the wealthy and politicians.
- Be realistic, people understand that tax is largely a force for good
but they don’t love paying tax.
- People see the hollowing out of public services and they want more
investment. Call for tax increases, including higher taxes on wealth,
linking these proposals to supporting public services.
- Be angry about tax avoidance, the public hate it and will support you.
But point to ways in which politicians can fix the system.
- But be careful not to imply all public services are paid for by tax. Be clear that the government has a large degree of control over the economy and politicians have many tools for supporting public investment beyond tax, including borrowing and Quantitative Easing.
- Don’t talk about wealth like it’s inherently bad. It’s not inherently bad
to those who are struggling because they don’t have any. People quite
admire the wealthy and often find generic rich-bashing divisive. Focus
on how the tax system can support collective security so that no-one
needs to worry about building big individual safety nets.
- Make sure you explain everything in straightforward, everyday language. People’s knowledge of the tax system is limited. It’s better you risk looking a bit patronising than saying things nobody understands.
- Use common metaphors to help people understand difficult concepts, or ideas that are usually only discussed in numerical terms – like how much money actually constitutes being rich.
- If you’re talking about fairness, make sure you explain exactly what you mean, as different people have very different ideas of what “fair” looks like.
- Be very careful if you use the container model (i.e. viewing the nation
as a big pot where money is either contributed or drained). It’s more
effective to use metaphors that emphasise how the economy is human made and that it can be changed to help build a better world. Stress that tax and public spending play crucial roles in building things that we collectively need.
Download the full report below: