Boris Johnson to hike taxes to tackle Covid and social care crises

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain, August 18, 2021.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced plans to hike taxes to fund health care and reforms to the country’s social-care system.

From April, Johnson’s government wants to introduce a new 1.25% health- and social-care levy on earned income across England. Tax rates on shareholder dividends will rise by the same amount. It will begin as an increase on the existing National Insurance rate (a current tax on earnings) and become a separate tax on earned income in 2023.

The increased taxes will raise almost £36 billion ($49.6 billion) over the next three years, according to the government, with money from the levy going directly to Britain’s health- and social-care systems.

The plans require approval from Parliament before they can be enshrined into law.

Speaking to lawmakers in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Johnson said it would be “wrong for me to say that we can pay for this pandemic without taking the difficult but responsible decisions about how we finance it.”

The prime minister said that because the new tax rate would be a permanent additional investment in health and social care, it would be “irresponsible” to meet the costs through more borrowing.

“Some will ask why we don’t increase income tax or capital gains tax instead. Income tax isn’t paid by businesses, so the whole burden would fall on individuals, roughly doubling the amount that the basic taxpayer could expect to pay. And the total revenue from capital gains tax amounts to less than £9 billion this year,” he told politicians.

“Instead, our new levy will share the cost between individuals and businesses, and everyone will contribute according to their means. Those who earn more will pay more. And because we’re also increasing dividends tax rates, we will be asking better-off business owners and investors to make a fair contribution, too. In fact, the highest-earning 14% will pay around half the revenues.”

By increasing taxes by 1.25%, Johnson’s government aims to tackle crises in social-care funding and National Health Service treatment waiting lists, the latter of which has spiraled amid escalating pressure on health-care services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under Britain’s National Insurance scheme, workers and employers pay a levy that funds certain welfare programs like state pensions, statutory sick pay and maternity pay. People over the state pension age do not pay the levy, which effectively lowers their tax bill.

For workers earning between £797 and £4,189 a month, National Insurance payments are 12% of their earnings. Additional earnings in excess of £4,189 a month are taxed at 2%. Those payments are made on top of income tax.

England’s NHS will be given a £5.4 billion cash injection over the next six months to bolster its response to the Covid-19 crisis, the government announced Monday. Of that funding, £1 billion…

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