Letter: Income tax is fairer than means testing

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The Conservatives have launched their manifesto, and not surprisingly it includes means test (benefits cut) after means test (benefits cut).

Don’t they understand that we have a perfectly good, fair, and efficient means test in the form of income tax?

But they are proposing docking the winter fuel allowance from “better off” pensioners, ending free school meals for most children, and means testing benefits for those elderly people in need of care – care which they have paid for throughout their life in income tax, national insurance, VAT, and all the other taxes.

They will no doubt suggest that (for example) Alan Sugar does not need the winter fuel allowance. But Alan Sugar (presumably) pays much more income tax than most of us; and his companies presumably contribute to the economy through taxation, too.

So with a fair income tax system, that modest benefit paid to him, would easily be (more than) returned through income tax.

The problem is that wherever you draw a line for a means test (or should that be mean test – no “s” at the end of mean?), you create a benefit trap, and unfairness for those just over that line.

On the other hand, the income tax system ensures that those who can afford to contribute more to society (and to their own care when needed) do so in the fairest possible manner.

This is why the Labour Party are proposing modest increases in income tax for those earning more than three times the average wage.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Theresa May is so keen on mean tests – as I commented in an earlier letter to the Echo, her initials when reversed are the same as Margaret Thatcher’s – and even more spookily the same as the initial letters of “Means Test”.