Robert Oxley: Time for Osborne to take the axe to stamp duty and unfair green taxes

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TODAY, George Osborne delivers his fourth Autumn Statement – although judging by the distinct chill in the air, the Winter Statement seems a more apt name.

It will be set against a backdrop of improved wider economic indicators but delivered at a time when there is still intense pressure on family finances caused by rising prices and stagnant wages.

Because of this, the Autumn Statement must contain concrete action not only to ease the burden on taxpayers, but also to remove some of the barriers that hamper the modest aspirations of families up and down the country.

The Chancellor certainly doesn’t have a magic wand to create money out of thin air and anyone pretending that he does is only perpetuating the misconception that it is the role of politicians to create wealth and prosperity.

But George Osborne is responsible for the largest outgoing of any family budget: the tax that we all pay. And with 
that responsibility comes the power to cut taxes and make a 
real difference in terms of what is left in people’s pockets every month.

It is certainly imperative that the Chancellor does something about the so-called “green” taxes. They have increased household bills while the Government’s broken energy policy has guaranteed big profits for energy firms.

Long before Ed Miliband promised a popular – though totally unworkable – freeze in energy bills, polls showed that this was the top concern for voters.

But Ministers cannot simply respond by pointing out that a freeze won’t work when their own policy has been an utter disaster.

We are led to believe that they intend transferring the burden from bill payers to taxpayers more generally, although that will be just as bad as the current farce because it won’t reduce the overall burden on family budgets.

Nor will it reduce the damage done to industry by policies like the carbon floor price which is costing jobs across Yorkshire. Green taxes are an energy swindle and they should be scrapped entirely.

Helping those struggling with the essentials is vital, but the Autumn Statement must do more than that. It must also help those with reasonable aspirations, such as owning a home or running a business.

Two pernicious taxes are making these dreams ever more distant for an increasing number of people.

Stamp duty holds back first-time buyers and prevents others from moving home when they need to, as well as distorting the property market at the points where the rates zip up.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is currently running a major campaign against stamp duty which more and more people will be forced to pay at higher rates in the next five years as house prices increase.

So whether it be through reforming its structure, increasing the thresholds or cutting the rates, the Chancellor must cut this unfair double tax on those who own – or aspire to own – a place of their own.

Meanwhile, the planned rise in business rates would harm those who run a business or hope to do so.

It is a tax that must be paid in the good times and the bad, and it is harming the high street and damaging the recovery. Cuts in corporation tax have been welcome but the case for freezing business rates has never been stronger.

However, tax cuts will only be possible if the Chancellor actually gets a firm grip of public spending. A tax cut for one group at the expense of a tax rise for another won’t really help anybody.

Those kinds of measures represent little more than tinkering at the edges in pursuit of favourable headlines and a few extra votes.

To really help the economy and family finances, the Chancellor needs to cut public spending and introduce strategic reforms that would create a much simpler, fairer and more competitive tax system.

Earlier this year, our Bumper Book of Government Waste identified £120bn in vast swathes of wasteful and unnecessary spending – equivalent to a massive £4,500 for each and every household in the UK.

So tax cuts in the Autumn Statement need to be accompanied by corresponding and necessary cuts in public spending which we have shown could be delivered.

The Chancellor must be bold. Continuing on the current path of higher taxes, higher public spending and ever more debt would mean at least a decade of economic malaise for the UK and further squeezes on household budgets and dreams.

It’s not enough for George Osborne to say that the 
economy is finally growing, the economic forecasts have been revised upwards and the Government may just about achieve its (already downgraded) deficit reduction plan.

That might win some muted applause in the Westminster village, but if this Autumn Statement is to have a real 
impact on people’s lives, it 
must have a demonstrable and lasting impact for the better not only on government finances, but also those of every family in the UK.

*Robert Oxley is campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.