“Britain’s super-rich boosted their wealth by £31 billion in the last year alone – a time when living standards have been under a near-unprecedented attack for everyone else. This is no one-off.”
By Richard Burgon MP
Not a day goes by without me being contacted by someone deeply worried about how they will cope with rising food bills, sky-high energy costs and falling wages.
Yet, as new figures out this weekend showed, for some this is no time of crisis, it’s boom time.
The Sunday Times Rich List 2023 revealed that the total wealth of UK Billionaires has now hit an eye-watering £684 billion.
Britain’s super-rich boosted their wealth by £31 billion in the last year alone – a time when living standards have been under a near-unprecedented attack for everyone else.
This is no one-off. British billionaires’ wealth has increased by over £430 billion in the last decade.
Such vast fortunes are almost difficult to imagine. So to put it another way, they have increased their wealth by £120 Million every single day for 10 years.
That’s a decade when wages have stagnated, with wages actually lower today than in 2008.
This soaring wealth of the billionaire class is the flip side of these weak wages. As the share of the economy going to workers has gone down, that going to the super-rich has gone up
A Wealth Tax on the super-rich can help break this trend and ensure that those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share.
It would be a fair way to repair our crumbling public services and give the NHS, schools and local services the boost they need.
New polling from the Fairness Foundation shows why we on the progressive wing of politics are right to keep pushing on this.
Their survey showed that two in three people think that the government should be doing more to tax high-net-worth individuals – those with wealth of over £10m. While 8 in 10 people are concerned that the wealthy don’t contribute their fair share of taxes.
People have clearly had enough of this dangerous level of inequality in our society.
Action is especially urgent because in our country wealth inequality is even greater than the shocking levels of income inequality we see. There can be no shift to a truly more equal society without wealth taxes.
For example, figures from the Credit Suisse bank show that the wealthiest 1% in our society have more wealth than 70% of the population.
So what could a wealth tax look like?
A few years ago, the Sunday Times published a calculator alongside its Rich List showing that a one-off 10% tax on any wealth above £10m could raise £86 billion. Now it would be even more.
Such a tax would affect far less than 1% of the population, but it could create a huge social emergency fund to help people during this crisis and to help rebuild the communities hit by a decade of austerity and the slowest pay growth in 200 years.
But to deal with the ongoing inequality in our society, an annual wealth tax could be even better. Applying a 1.5% wealth tax on assets over £10 million would raise around £12bn per year.
It’s worth pointing out here that this would only apply on wealth above £10m. So, for example, if someone had wealth of £11m they would only pay £15,000 more per year.
Again, there is popular backing for this. A recent YouGov poll for Tax Justice UK showed three in four people would support the Chancellor introducing a 1% or 2% tax on those with over £10 million in assets in order to invest in our faltering economy and public services. This even included over two-thirds of Tory voters.
There is a wider package of other reforms to tackle wealth inequality that could also be undertaken, from equalising capital gains with income tax rates raising up to £15bn per year to tackling the non-dom tax break for the super-rich that would raise up to £3 billion a year.
Opponents of wealth taxes on the super-rich often try to confuse the debate and imply it simply can’t be done.
But this isn’t a technical issue, it’s a political one: this Tory Government sees its primary role as being to defend the incredibly wealthy, not to go after them to make them pay their fair share.
Our job is to win the public argument and build the mass movements that mean the government has no choice but to impose a wealth tax on the super-rich.
- Join Richard Burgon in calling on the Government to tax wealth fairly and use the funds to properly fund our public services – add your name here.
- Richard Burgon is speaking at an upcoming Arise Festival 2023 session: “Socialist economic policies explained: the alternative to never-ending cuts,” you can register and find out more here; and register for the online festival here.
- Richard Burgon is the MP for Leeds East, the Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.