It wasn’t just Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party that lost the 2019 election – fiscal conservatism and proponents for small government took a hammering too. All the main parties promised increases in government expenditure, and most were honest enough to admit that this would mean an increase in taxes. While the age of austerity may be over, there are still advances that can be made in the name of a less intrusive, less bureaucratic government. The government should start with tax simplification, in particular the cost-neutral removal of some taxes altogether. If we can’t have lower taxes, let us have fewer.
The United Kingdom’s tax code is the largest in the world and stands at over 17,000 pages long, more than triple its 1997 length. By contrast, Hong Kong’s tax code is 276 pages long. Tax burden does not have to correlate with tax complexity and length either: Estonia (tax revenue 32.77% of GDP, to the UK’s 33.54%), has repeatedly been ranked the most competitive by the US think-tank Tax Foundation. Accordingly, audacity should be the defining feature of the next Conservative budget, and the Treasury isn’t short for choice when it comes to reducing the number of taxes.