In the run up to the 2015 General Election, inheritance tax has provided a point of contention; it has also provided another opportunity for UKIP to assert a bold, principled stand against the crooked, half-hearted posturing of The Conservative Party.
George Osborne has stated that inheritance tax “should be paid by the rich”, but has not yet deigned to tell us how he defines the term ‘rich’, saying “we will set out our approach closer to the election”. The coalition government already tried to raise the inheritance tax threshold in 2010, but were prevented from doing so by their liberal bedfellows. In effect, what Osborne’s proposal amounts to is: “We won’t tax you, we’ll tax that guy over there, you know, that one“; some unnamed Other, bracketed until further notice, will have to suffer for the sake of a small, populist lure to the voters. Whatever this is, it is not a principled stand.
UKIP has pledged to abolish the inheritance tax. Not cut it, not freeze it, not offload it onto some indistinct group whose humanity has been withdrawn until further notice—abolish it. UKIP understands that the tax is unjust, avoided by many, targets those who are grief-stricken, and brings in a mere morsel of revenue (about £3bn per annum, or, to put it depressingly, about 1/27th of the estimated cost of HS2). UKIP understands that the first step towards boosting a lagging economy is to reduce the tax burden, and put money back into the hands of consumers and producers (their own money, not money taken or borrowed from someone else).
Not everyone however is supportive of UKIP’s proposal. Sophie Warnes, writing in The Mirror, places ‘abolishing inheritance tax’ at the top of a list of what she terms ‘weird’ UKIP policies; “accumulating wealth across generations” she writes, “is a surefire way to increase the gap between the rich and the poor”. Maya Goodfellow, a staff writer for the largest Labour supporting grassroots website, decries any attempt to reduce the tax burden on inheritance, describing inheritance as part of a “patrimonial system of power and wealth“. The Labour Party itself (whose leader lives in a £2.3m house he inherited from his father) has repeatedly threatened to raise the inheritance tax, and/or expand the pool of its victims.
Why should we expect otherwise? Animosity towards inheritance is a deeply rooted component of socialist ideology. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels list “abolition of all right of inheritance” as one of the major stepping stones towards communism, and Marx recommended, as a primary measure, “extension of the inheritance duties already existing“. As UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn rightly points out, “socialists look at death duties from the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of being envious of those who inherit, our primary response should be to respect those who earned the money“.
Socialist opposition to private property, the family, and the accumulation of wealth and capital, manifests itself as a desire to halt and hinder inheritance. It was under the administration of socialist hero Clement Attlee that the meagre tax then known as ‘Estate Duty’ ballooned into a much more significant ‘Capital Transfer Tax’; thus began the gradual increase in scope of what we now call ‘Inheritance Tax’. Large jumps in the tax rate occurred under economic bunglers Wilson and Callahan, and also (strangely) under Margaret Thatcher.
This, I believe, is the most important reason to oppose inheritance tax. Not just that it involves taxing the same money twice, not just that it raises the overall tax burden, not just that it hits people at a particularly unsuitable time, but because inheritance tax represents part of an overall anti-capitalist strategy, a strategy employed by the left to undermine the institutions of the market, private property and the family. Taking a principled stand against inheritance tax means taking a principled stand against the creeping intrusion of socialist ideology and practice, and in favour of the institutions that our society and our prosperity rest on. Letting the inheritance tax slip past unopposed means sanctioning the motives and goals of socialists.
But, some more reasonable critics might object, won’t abolishing the inheritance tax decrease government revenue? Well, it may well do—by a tiny, tiny amount. It may of course not, since reducing the tax burden often encourages the wealthy to migrate to those places where taxes are lower, thus increasing the overall pool of government funds. Even if it did decrease government revenue, that revenue could be recovered in other places; I refuse to believe that the British state does not have £3bn worth of fat to trim.
For the sake of pushing Britain away from socialism and towards prosperity, inheritance tax must be abolished. UKIP is the only party willing to stand up, recognise that fact, and pledge to implement the solution.
Photo by 401(K) 2013