By Harry Phibbs
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As Tim wrote in The Times (£) on Monday, the Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, has the championing of the little guy at the heart of his beliefs.
His philosophy can be applied to policy in a number of ways. But one aspect that Mr Halfon keeps at the forefront of his mind is that the little guy pays a heavy burden of tax.
One example is filling up the tank of a family car, with 70 litres of petrol costing, say, £93. That means paying £40.56p of fuel duty. Then there is VAT on the whole lot, a tax on a tax, coming to £18.60p. So the tax bill for filling up the family car with petrol is £59.16 – the same for a poor man as a rich man.
Mr Halfon has fought for transparency on petrol purchases, so that the amount of tax paid is shown on each receipt. Why not? From next year, Ben Gummer's proposal for us to be told what our Income Tax is spent on, will be introduced.
Mr Halfon has also fought, with considerable effectiveness, against further tax increases on petrol. Tax increases planned by Labour have been cancelled. In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:
"We have cancelled the last Government’s escalator, and I am moving inflation-only rises to September. Fuel is 10p per litre cheaper than it would have been if we had stuck to Labour’s tax plans, and I want to keep it that way, as I know do my colleagues, like my hon. Friend
the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon). There is a 3p per litre rise planned for this January. Now, some have suggested that we delay it until April. I disagree. I suggest we cancel it altogether. There will be no 3p fuel tax rise this January. That is real help with the cost of living for families as they fill up their cars across the country, and it will help businesses, too. It means that, under this Government, we will have had no increase in petrol taxes for nearly two and a half years. In fact, they have been cut."
Mr Halfon is also campaigning for the reintroduction of the 10p Income Tax rate for low earners. This was abolished as a result of Gordon Brown's 2007 budget – although he didn't actually announce it in the speech. We had to wait for David Cameron's reply to hear what had happened:
"If one looks carefully, one sees that the revenue to justify that reduction will be obtained from the abolition of the 10p rate. To fund the reduction, income tax will be increased for many taxpayers. One could say that we will be asking the poor to subsidise the rich. That is an example of the sleight of hand that the Chancellor has demonstrated in the past."
Gradually the more decent Labour MPs, such as Frank Field, acknowledged that what Mr Cameron had said was true. That 5.3 million families, those on low incomes, had a tax rise – their income being taxed at 20% instead of 10%. This was to pay for richer families having a tax cut from 22% to 20%. But even a year later the Labour cabinet minister Ed Miliband defended the change saying:
"These changes make the tax system fairer."
A campaign has been launched by Mr Halfon to restore the 10p tax rate. This is part of the moral mission for lower taxes. He proposes applying the rate on earnings between £9,205 and £12,000. This would cost £6 billion. It would help all earners – although especially the low paid. It would achieve the same result as the Living Wage without putting burdens on business. It would also reward work compared to welfare.
So it can be justified on economic and moral grounds. But there would also be a symbolic political message. The Government would be reversing Labour's tax hike on the poor.