Fairer Share gains national media coverage as the campaign reaches 100,000 supporters

Yesterday, our campaign reached the magnificent milestone of gaining our 100,000th supporter. Since we began the campaign in June, we've been stunned by the positive feedback we've received and the progress we have been able to make in pushing for a fairer property tax system.

As we reached 100,000 supporters, we've seen some fantastic coverage in the national media.

Here are some of the highlights: 

We were delighted to see that our proposal is supported by The Sun, who have been hostile to property tax reform in the past. Their headline "GET RID, RISHI: Scrap council tax and stamp duty, Rishi Sunak urged in plan backed by 100,000

The Daily Mail also reported on the potential for a new property levy to replace Council Tax and Stamp Duty, stating "One of the main criticisms of the council tax system is that it is based on property valuations dating back to 1991 while stamp duty is viewed by critics as a barrier to people getting onto, and moving up, the housing ladder."

There was another positive review in The Metro, which said "Rishi Sunak is coming under pressure to ditch council tax and stamp duty completely. Almost 100,000 people have signed Fairer Share’s campaign to replace council tax, stamp duty and the controversial bedroom tax with a flat rate payment based on the value of a property."

The Daily Express who have reported on the negative impacts of Council Tax most frequently since last March, said "Supporters of the plan say it will be hugely beneficial to voters in the red wall seats in the north that the Tories won from Labour in 2019. They also say scrapping stamp duty would remove the barrier to families trading up to a bigger home and elderly people in large houses downsizing."

The Daily Telegraph focused their ire on Stamp Duty with the headline: Stamp duty is Britain’s worst tax. It’s time to move on, Mr Sunak, which is far from surprising given their "Stamp out the Duty" campaign. 

The Daily Star, City AM and ConHome also covered the story, with the former reporting "Charity Fairer Share is pushing for the Chancellor to kill off not only stamp duty but council tax as well, urging Mr Sunak to come up with a new, fairer tax for all property owners. They say one in four adults in the UK regularly go into debt in order to pay their council tax."


Why we're supporting Fairer Share

Now that we have reached the milestone of 100,000 households supporting our campaign, we wanted to hear the thoughts of our supporters on why a fairer property tax system is so important to them.

Here's what they had to say:

Susan from Staffordshire - "I’m supporting your campaign because I believe that as a renter rather than a home owner that it is the landlord who should be paying the majority (if not all) of the Council Tax."

 

 

Shaylee from Kent - "I am supporting your campaign as it is a subject close to my heart and affects myself and my family. I think we live in a society where families struggle daily with basic household bills and the cost of living but much of this goes under the radar. We are encouraged to save for our families' futures, but with ever increasing bills such as Council Tax this just isn’t possible. A lower, and a more evenly distributed system for Council Tax would help many families."

Claire from Gloucester - "Your scheme is incredible and appears to be much fairer than the current scheme. As a single mum working full-time in a primary school throughout the pandemic, putting myself at risk daily, I bring home a shockingly low wage and with two teenage boys eating me out of house and home, I'm sad to say all of my money goes on bills with Council Tax being a big one. Treats are few and far between and there is no chance at all to save - it really does feel like us low-earners live to work."

 

 

Maxine from Manchester - "Everyone is going through the same challenges because of this horrendous nightmare of a pandemic which means that many businesses are closed. Thousands upon thousands of people don't have as much money coming through to pay their bills. Fairer Share would like the government to replace Council Tax altogether. This would help immensely people that just don't have enough funds. People are having to consider do they feed themselves or put the heating on. This is just horrendous!!!"

Becca from Doncaster - "Where I live you pay council tax but nothing is ever improved. It feels that half of our money gets swallowed up. The government are very good at helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, it's about time someone stuck up for the average Joe and said enough is enough."

 

 

Keith from Birmingham - "It’s been a bad last 8 months since the pandemic started and I have been struggling to keep on top of bills and especially Council Tax. I am supporting your campaign as I believe that Council Tax is too high and the council have cut services to the bone but every year the tax keeps rising."

 

If you would like to get in touch and let us know why you're supporting our campaign, please email us at support@fairershare.org.uk


A fairer tax system is essential to ‘building back better’

This article originally appeared in Oxfam's 'Views & Voices' blog on December 16th, authored by Robert Palmer, Executive Director, Tax Justice UK. 

Tax Justice UK shares Oxfam’s commitment to tackling inequality, eradicating poverty and standing up for those who typically struggle to get their voices heard. The need to address these issues has only become more urgent in light of the covid-19 pandemic, which in the UK as elsewhere has had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable in society, including ethnic minorities and those in low-paid and insecure work.

As news of vaccine breakthroughs finally put an end to the crisis in sight, it would be easy and tempting to revert to the status quo. But recovery from the pandemic provides us with a rare opportunity to place society on a more equitable foundation, including a fairer system of taxation.

Prior to the crisis, the UK’s tax system – unfair, poorly-understood and ineffective – was already in dire need of reform. But with the government signalling that it intends to increase taxes in the coming years, now is the time to undertake reform so that tax rises do not aggravate the failures of the current system.

One of Tax Justice UK’s key priorities is campaigning for greater taxation of wealth. In the UK, wealth is undertaxed in comparison to income, exacerbating a highly unequal distribution of wealth in which just 10% of households own 40% of all household wealth. Taxing wealth more effectively would not only reduce this inequality but provide additional public funding for our increasingly stretched schools, hospitals, social care and the many other public services people rely on.

Our manifesto for tax equality, in which we set out the case for greater taxation of wealth, identifies council tax and stamp duty as particularly problematic and ripe for reform. By taxing people living in lower-value housing more – as a proportion of property value – than people living in multi-million-pound mansions, council tax is a deeply regressive tax that unfairly benefits the UK’s wealthiest individuals and regions. Stamp duty, while more progressive, makes it unnecessarily costly to downsize or move home, creating economic inefficiencies. The manifesto calls for a proportional property tax to replace both taxes, which unlike council tax would tax homeowners consistently based on a fixed percentage of property value.

Despite a growing consensus among experts and across the partisan divide that council tax is unfit for purpose, the ever-growing arguments and evidence in favour of its abolition have so far struggled to cut through. That is why Fairer Share, a new grassroots campaign to replace council tax with a proportional property tax, is so important. By setting out the problems with council tax in an accessible and intuitive way and putting forward a detailed and fully costed alternative, Fairer Share is making a valuable contribution to the UK’s burgeoning movement for progressive tax reform.

That’s why earlier this year Tax Justice UK was delighted to sign an open letter to the Chancellor, coordinated by Fairer Share and supported by organisations across the political spectrum including the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Demos calling for property tax reform. The letter urged the government to “conduct a thorough review of Britain’s residential property taxes” and replace council tax and stamp duty with a fairer system, based on property value and ability to pay.

Since the poll tax riots in 1990, which directly led to the introduction of council tax, successive governments have tried their best to avoid the topic of property tax reform. This is partly due to understandable concerns about the complexity of the task, and partly due to less noble fears of alienating donors and wealthy homeowners in key constituencies.

Yet in recent years a growing body of research and analysis has gone a long way in resolving many of the objections associated with council tax reform. And when it comes to public opinion, politicians have less to fear than they might think. Polling conducted by Fairer Share shows that just 29% of the public believe that the way council tax is calculated is fair, while only 33% favour keeping it unchanged. Meanwhile, recent research by Tax Justice UK shows that a majority of people want to see wealth taxed more, including 64% of Conservative voters and 88% of Labour voters, with 67% in favour of tying property tax more closely to a home’s current value.

Once the covid-19 crisis subsides, the government will attempt to meet its ambitions of “building back better” and “levelling up”. Tax reform, including replacing council tax, must be part of that agenda. Tax Justice UK looks forward to working alongside Fairer Share and other like-minded organisations in the coming months and years to ensure that is the case.


LISTEN | Conservative MP explains why Council Tax must be replaced

After the launch of the Conservative's Property Research Group, the following interview took place with its Chair, Kevin Hollinrake MP, on talkRADIO on 11/12/2021.

At Fairer Share, we look forward to presenting our solution for The Proportional Property Tax to the Property Research Group in the coming months.

 

 

00:50 - Introducing Kevin Hollinrake MP.

01:07 - The problem with Council Tax.

01:35 - Why this call for reform is very different to the Poll Tax.

02:35 - How Stamp Duty harms the economy.

03:48 - What is the aim of the Property Research Group?

05:10 - END


Kevin Hollinrake MP | I'm launching the Property Research Group of MPs to fight for reform of outdated property taxes

The article by Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, first appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 11/12/2020. For the original article, please click here.

 

As the Prime Minister looks to double down on his plans to level up the country, one of the most visible ways he could help put more money into people’s pockets – especially those struggling to get by – is by reforming the outdated way property is taxed.

The current system is quite simply not fit for purpose. Take council tax. Every household in England – renters and owners alike – pays this annual fee to help fund important local services, from rubbish collection to maintaining parks and public libraries. No-one disputes the purpose of the tax. Yet, according to new polling out today, council tax is the most unpopular tax in the country.

This is largely because the amount of council tax households pay does not in any way reflect the current price of their home. The tax is calculated on a system set up in 1991, nearly 30 years ago. This outdated tax therefore has a disproportionately higher impact on younger and poorer people who tend to live in low value homes. A person living in a property worth £100,000 may pay six times as much tax, as a proportion of their home’s value, compared to someone living in a £1 million property.

Many low-income households who cannot afford to pay are aggressively pursued by local council and debt collection agencies. According to Citizens Advice, 40 per cent of problem debt can be apportioned to council tax. Covid-19 has only made the problem worse with an extra £700 million in council tax debt accrued by 800,000 struggling households since March. The inability of people to pay council tax is contributing to the perilous state of local government finances. According to statistics published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, households in England collectively owed more than £3.5 billion in council tax. Over the past five years there has been over a 30 per cent increase in overall council tax debt.

Stamp duty is another property tax which is an attack on aspiration and ownership. By taxing property transactions, stamp duty discourages homeowners from moving – be it an older couple downsizing or a growing family upsizing – that would lead to more efficient use of the country’s housing stock. Figures published earlier this year by the campaign group, Homes for Later Living, show that over 3 million people over 65 would like to move home but don’t feel they are able to. The fall in transactions ultimately results in fewer new homes being built because market signals, to which housebuilders respond, are distorted.

My friend, the Chancellor, has implicitly acknowledged the economic harm inflicted by stamp duty by cutting the tax where it is seen to be most burdensome. In addition to the tax-free threshold for first-time buyers, in response to the downturn caused by the pandemic Rishi Sunak announced the exemption from stamp duty of all residential property transactions worth up to £500,000 until April 2021. Given the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the economy and the long recovery that is likely to follow, returning stamp duty to its pre-crisis levels next April would be an unnecessary and unaffordable act of political and economic self-harm.

Business rates is yet another property tax which hampers investment. It is one of the biggest contributors to the death of high streets up and down the UK. And it has an impact on some of those places most in need of levelling up. Seventy-five per cent of constituencies with the highest rates burden are located in the North and the Midlands. This is because the tax rate does not mirror economic performance, so for areas facing economic challenges the burden is much higher. The Government has recognised this and taken bold action by publishing a fundamental review of business rates and providing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure during the Covid pandemic. This has been welcome but long-term and sustainable reform is vital.

Council tax, stamp duty and business rates are just three examples of an out-of-date system which is in desperate need of reform. This is why I am forming the Property Research Group. Together with colleagues from right across the country, we will be putting forward proposals to design a fairer and more efficient property tax system that works for all.

Kevin Hollinrake MP is Chair of the Property Research Group.


Winter Competition | Terms and Conditions

Terms and conditions for Fairer Share's winter competition

To enter our competition, please visit our Facebook page.

1. Our prize draws and competitions are organised by Fairer Tax Campaign CIC (known simply as Fairer Share), registered under the Company Number: 12334999.

How to enter

2. Entries received after the stated closing date of January 30th will not be accepted.

3. Our prize draws and competitions are free to enter and no purchase is necessary

4. Fairer Share will not accept responsibility for entries that are lost, mislaid, damaged or delayed in transit, regardless of cause, including, for example, as a result of any equipment failure, technical malfunction, systems, satellite, network, server, computer hardware or software failure of any kind.

5. By submitting an entry, you are agreeing to be bound by these Terms and Conditions. If you have any questions, please contact support@fairershare.org.uk

6. Fairer Share reserves the right to refuse entry, or refuse to award the prize to anyone in breach of these terms and conditions.

Eligibility

7. Unless otherwise stated, our prize draws and competitions are open to all except employees of Fairer Share, their families, agents or any third party directly associated with administration of the prize draw.

8. Entrants must be over the age of 18.

9. Only one entry per person is permitted.

10. In entering, you confirm that you are eligible to do so and eligible to claim any prize you may win. Fairer Share may require you to provide proof that you are eligible to enter the prize draw or competition.

11. Fairer Share reserves all rights to disqualify you if your conduct is contrary to the spirit or intention of the prize draw or competition.

12. Entrants must reside in the United Kingdom. Fairer Share reserves the right to remove entries if the entrant lives outside the UK.

The Draw

13. 10 winners will be chosen by random draw performed by a computer process on every Wednesday and Saturday of January 2021.

14. The winner will receive details of the prize.

15. The winners will be notified on Facebook within 2 days of being chosen and must their bank details to claim their prize. If a winner does not respond to the Fairer Share within 3 days of being notified, then the winner’s prize will be forfeited and the Fairer Share will be entitled to select another winner in accordance with the process described above.

16. The prize will be sent to the winner within 14 days of responding to the Fairer Share.

17. Fairer Share reserves the right to replace the prize with an alternative prize of equal or higher value if circumstances beyond the Fairer Share's control makes it necessary to do so.

18. The decision of Fairer Share regarding any aspect of the prize draw or competition is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into about it.

19. Fairer Share reserves the right to hold void, cancel, suspend, or amend the promotion where it becomes necessary to do so.

Limitation of liability

20. Insofar as is permitted by law, Fairer Share, its agents or distributors will not in any circumstances be responsible or liable to compensate the winner or accept any liability for any loss, damage, personal injury or death occurring as a result of taking up the prize except where it is caused by the negligence of Fairer Share, its agents or distributors or that of their employees. Your statutory rights are not affected.

Data protection and publicity

21. Fairer Share is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy and will only use your personal information in accordance with these Terms and Conditions and Fairer Share's Privacy Policy which is available on our website: Privacy Policy - Fairer Share Campaign

22. By entering, you agree that any personal information provided by you with your entry may be held and used by Fairer Share or its agents and suppliers to administer the competition.

Governing law

23. All our prize draws and competitions will be governed by English law and entrants to the prize draw submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts.

24. Fairer Share reserves the right to update these Terms and Conditions from time to time and any updated version will be effective as soon as it is published on the website.


Supporter letter | There are systemic failings with Council Tax

One of our supporters, John, has shared his personal experience fighting against the unfair Council Tax system in Northumberland. He supports Fairer Share because he agrees that we need one simple, fairer tax system.

 

Dear Fairer Share,

My complaint is not just about the level of Council Tax bills, but also about the way councils arbitrarily make decisions and enforce them, employing automated processes that end up with debt collectors. 

My first experience of Council Tax was when my late aunt—who was elderly and suffering from dementia—had her Council Tax discount benefit wrongly cut off. 

Unfortunately, similar methods were also employed on me, despite being a pensioner on an income level that should qualify me for a Council Tax discount and housing benefits. I had helped my aunt buy her house on the basis that it would come to me after her death. When she died, it took us 7 months to sort out her affairs and carry out essential work to the house, so it could be brought up to the required standards and be lived in safely.

The council however, acted immediately to disqualify my Council Tax discount and housing benefits from the date the property title was passed to me. Its capital value was used to disqualify my entitlement even though it was a liability not an asset. The council made me pay the full Council Tax on the inherited house as well as the rented property I was previously staying in nearby. I was also made to repay “overpaid” housing benefits. The council and the Valuation Office both rejected my argument that paying two sets of Council Tax, plus paying back housing benefit constituted severe hardship. 

My income as a single pensioner was reduced to far below the sum the government specified for pensioners to live on, ironically the same formula used to determine benefits in the first place. At the same time as they refused to alleviate the hardship they had caused, the council were giving out exemptions to private landlords for carrying out the same kind of essential repairs that I had to.

I was not only concerned about the money and hardship, but also the way the council behaved throughout. 

I was pleased to come across your campaign as the current system needs to be simplified. I do wonder how many there are out there paying too much and not having fair assessments or appeals, especially with millions of homes going into debt since the start of the pandemic. There seems to be major systemic failures

 

John L

Northumberland

Join John, sign and share our petition for a fairer system


WATCH: Treasury Committee | Tax after Coronavirus

The House of Commons Treasury Committee held an oral evidence session on November 18th for its Tax after Coronavirus inquiry. Reforming Britain's property taxes was one point of discussion. Watch what Robert Palmer of Tax Justice UK and Arun Advani, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick, had to say: 

Robert Palmer (Tax Justice UK)

 

Arun Advani, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Warwick

We look forward to seeing the Treasury Committee's recommendations for dealing with Britain's property taxes after Coronavirus. The evidence heard in this session, in addition to the written evidence we submitted should emphasise how important reform could be.

 


Lockdown 2 | Replace Council Tax or watch debts spiral

We’re back in lockdown. Not the outcome that anyone was hoping for, but it is where we are and collectively, we have to make the best of it. Increases in Britain’s inequality and poverty levels have been sent into overdrive since the pandemic began, risking a national household debt crisis. Replacing Council Tax with a fair and equitable system must be high on the Government’s list of priorities over the winter…

Britain, we have a problem

Citizens Advice estimate that over 6 million homes have fallen into debt on at least one of their household bills since the outbreak of Covid-19. A whopping 2.8 million of these homes are in arrears on their Council Tax payments. Of those in debt, 18% have been unable to afford essential items such as food, 30% have run down their savings in order to make ends meet, and 22% are having to sell possessions.

Key workers are feeling the squeeze

It is especially concerning that 21% of key workers have fallen behind on their bills compared to 11% of the general population. 

Source: Citizens Advice (2020)

Of those who have seen a reduction in their income during the pandemic, almost half (46%) have then fallen into debt. If this trend continues through the winter, the damage felt won’t just be to households across the country. Local businesses, local authority finances and our communities themselves will also suffer. 

A roadmap to recovery

Council Tax debt isn’t just a short-term problem. With monthly bills continually charged, even to those in debt, the question becomes: how do you get out of it? 40% of those who speak to Citizens Advice currently have a negative budget. This means that after their regular monthly living expenditures, they have nothing left over. The average negative budget is £133.  Furthermore, the average monthly surplus was only £82. This is all that is left over for debt repayments each month. 

For millions of households, the recovery from the financial shock of the first wave of Covid-19 will be a long one. It is estimated that if those in debt spent their entire disposable income solely on their debt repayments, it would take over two years to repay their “priority” debts - debts that carry the most serious consequences if left unpaid. 

Lockdown 2: We can turn this around

The figures above are from the first national lockdown — March to May. Now that we find ourselves plunged into a second iteration of lockdown, these figures are likely to get a whole lot worse. Not only will millions more homes be plunged into Council Tax debt, but those already in arrears will see their debt mount even further. But it doesn’t have to be this way... 

A fairer solution

At Fairer Share, our sole aim is to fix the UK’s unfair property tax system. This means replacing the broken Council Tax with what we are calling: The Proportional Property Tax - a flat rate of 0.48% charged on the value of a property. 

 

Of the major debts listed above, Council Tax is by far the simplest to reduce. Operated entirely by public institutions and with no private sector to consider, replacing Council Tax would be far easier than reducing rent or energy debts. 

Not only does our proposal reduce tax bills for 18 million households, it also helps those most in need. Of the top 5 most income-deprived areas of the country, the average household saving under our plan ranges from £533 to £819 each year. This won’t suddenly fix the UK's household debt problem, but it will help to keep millions of families out of Council Tax debt and able to afford essential items such as food. 

Furthermore, our proposal includes a deferral mechanism for those unable to pay. The 2.8 million households who have entered into Council Tax arrears since March won’t have to pay it back until they can afford it, or until the sale of their house.

Council Tax will no longer be a priority debt for those unable to pay. Not only will this greatly reduce the stresses of a potential bailiff visit, it allows households already in debt to start paying back their other important debts. 

This deferral mechanism relies on removing 8 million renters from the property tax system. Renters have been one of the groups hardest hit by the pandemic, with many living paycheck-to-paycheck and over 320,000 are already in debt to their landlords. They need our support urgently. 

We can help reduce the debt crisis, but we need your help! 

You can support our campaign by joining the almost 70,000 households who have signed our petition for a fairer system. 

You can also Email your MP to let them know why we need to replace Council Tax so urgently.


OECD report calls for a Proportional Property Tax in the UK

Earlier this month, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) released its 2020 Economic Survey for the UK - a periodic review of the economies of its member states. The 2020 review covered areas ranging from productivity to trade, in addition to an impact assessment of Covid-19 and Brexit on the UK economy.  

Encouragingly, the OECD also included a specific recommendation to reform Council Tax with a Proportional Property Tax - here is what they had to say:

"Council Tax could be increased to raise tax on high housing wealth. At the moment, the tax is charged at a much lower percentage of property value for high-value properties than for low-value properties. As recommended by the Mirrlees Review (2011), it would be simpler and more efficient to use a simple percentage of property value.

At the same time, this could be an opportunity to rebalance property taxes, moving away from stamp duties and transaction taxes. This would boost labour force mobility and encourage more efficient use of the housing stock. As Council Tax is local, resources could be used either to reduce the grant provided by the central Government to local authorities, or alternatively to finance services at the local level that have been cut recently."

The OECD joins an ever-growing list of organisations advocating for the UK to adopt a Proportional Property Tax, including the IFS, IEA, Adam Smith Institute, IPPR, and Resolution Foundation, many of whom signed our open letter to the Chancellor calling for reform to the UK's property taxes.

With the UK now firmly in recession and Coronavirus restrictions increasing, the case for a Proportional Property Tax has never been stronger. We hope the Government will listen to mounting calls for a new approach to property tax which is fair, simple and promotes aspiration.

You can read the full OECD report here.

You can read our Proportional Property Tax proposal here