Voters called to 'remember the poor' in the election

(Photo: Unsplash/Tom Parsons)

With just a week to go until the nation goes to the polls in the General Election, voters are being urged to "remember the poor".

Church Action for Tax Justice (CATJ) welcomed manifesto pledges by the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems to address poverty and inequality, but said that it wants to see the incoming government change the way that tax is paid to make the system fairer.

The Conservatives have said they will "continue our efforts through the tax and benefits system to reduce poverty, including child poverty", while Labour has pledged to "tackle poverty and inequality" by ending "the unfairness that sees income from wealth taxed at lower rates than income from work". 

The Liberal Democrats have promised to put "1p on Income Tax, with this money to be ringfenced for spending on the NHS and social care".

CATJ said it wanted to see the gap closed between tax on work-based income and tax on wealth.

"For some time, CATJ has been arguing that our current tax system is deeply regressive – that is, when all taxes are taken into account, the poor actually pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than the wealthy. This is unfair and should be changed," it said.

"One way this can be addressed is through equalising the amount of tax that is paid on income through work and income through wealth.

"Currently, the tax that is paid on income from dividends and capital gains (wealth) is less than that paid on income from normal work.

"We think this is unfair and that it contributes to the income and wealth inequality that plagues our country."

CATJ also attacked the current council tax system, calling for it to be replaced by a form of land value tax, an idea pledged by the Green Party in their manifesto. 

"One of the most unfair taxes in the UK at present is the council tax," it said.

"It is highly regressive in that the poor currently pay a much higher proportion of their income in council tax than those who are wealthy.

"The poorest 10% of households pay 16% of their original income in council tax compared to just 3% for the wealthiest 10% of households."

CATJ welcomed moves away from reducing the corporation tax and commitments to clamp down on tax dodging at home and overseas.

According to the charity, the UK is missing out on £35bn in lost revenue through unpaid tax, while internationally the figure stands at $400bn per year.

The charity further added that the tax system could be used to address climate change and move the UK towards a greener economy.

"Tackling climate change through the taxation system is hugely important as tax can be used not just to reduce poverty and inequality, but also to encourage the kind of zero carbon lifestyle changes that genuinely help the poorest in our world," it said. 

CATJ is encouraging voters to ask three key questions about party policies as they prepare to vote: Do the policies reduce inequality? Do they meet the needs of the most vulnerable? Do the policies serve the common good?

"A prime purpose of taxation is the provision of public services, on which the poorest in society depend even more," it said.

"We welcome the commitment by all parties to spend more, especially on health, social care and education. But at a time when speaking the truth in public life is at a premium, we urge all parties to be honest about how this money, from taxation or borrowing, will be raised.

"Our strapline is for the common good, and our hope is that whichever party is elected that it will serve all and, in the words of St Paul, especially 'remember the poor'."