How much does the UK tax high earners compared to the rest of Europe?

·3 min read
Tax has become a major battleground of the leadership contest. (PA)
Tax has become a major battleground of the leadership contest. (PA)

With the race to be the next prime minister heating up, the main battleground between the two candidates has been tax cuts.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, the UK's tax burden - how much money the government makes from tax as a percentage of GDP - is predicted to rise to its highest levels since the 1940s.

It is currently estimated to be around 34.4% - up from 33.1% last year - and is predicted to rise to 36.3% in 2025/26.

The last time it was that high was during the first Labour government under Clement Attlee, when the country was still reeling from the impact of the Second World War as well as developing the welfare state and the NHS.

The rise is being driven by the increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% and the 1.25% rise in National Insurance.

This has not sat well with many Conservatives, who often want to lower taxes rather than increase them.

UK tax burden as a percentage of GDP.
UK tax burden as a percentage of GDP.

As part of his Tory leadership campaign, Rishi Sunak has pledged to cut VAT on energy bills to help with the cost of living crisis but wants to maintain the current tax rises for the immediate future.

Liz Truss, on the other hand, has promised to reverse all of the recent tax hikes and has alluded to making further (uncosted) cuts quickly after coming into office if she should win the race to No 10.

How much are the highest earners taxed on their incomes?

As chancellor, Sunak pledged to cut the basic rate of income tax by one percentage point to 19 per cent in 2024.

However, even if that goes ahead, his decision to freeze the income tax personal allowance (the amount you can earn before you are taxed) and the threshold for entering the higher tax bracket, has led to a record number of people paying higher rates.

Overall the tax burden in the UK is not as high as in other European nations - it's 46% in Denmark and 45% in.

But how much are the highest earners taxed on their incomes?

Out of all major European nations, the UK has only the 17th highest top income bracket at 45%.

Most nations vary between 45% and 55% for their highest tax bracket, with Denmark having the highest at 55.89%.

(Yahoo News UK)
(Yahoo News UK)

The lowest in Europe is Hungary, at just 15%.

Out of Europe's biggest economies, France's is 55.4%, Germany's 47.5%, Spain's 54% and Italy's is 47.2%.

Read more: Middle income households see spare cash plunge by £135 a month

(Resolution Foundation)
(Resolution Foundation)

The issue of tax cuts is likely to remain at the top of agenda in the UK for some time to come. However, the Resolution Foundation thinktank warns that the current debate "ignores the underlying realities: taxes will be going up under either candidate".

It added: "The backdrop here is a complex and largely indefensible approach to raising personal taxes between this year and the middle of this decade, only one aspect of which Liz Truss proposes to reverse. More focus on how taxes are actually being raised, rather than just how much candidates would like to cut them, is badly needed."

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