Rowan Williams calls for UK wealth tax to fight ‘spiral inequality’ | taxes and expenses

Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has called on the UK government to impose a wealth tax on the super-rich to tackle “spiral inequality” which he says is “deeply damaging to our collective morale and confidence”.

Williams, who was the longest-serving bishop in the Church of England from 2002 to 2012, on Thursday joined a growing group of moral leaders calling for a one-off tax on the wealthiest 1% of the population to bridge the “oscillating” gap between them to include the richest and poorest in society.

“The spiral of inequality is a major problem in our society, and all the evidence suggests that it is deeply damaging to our collective morale and trust,” Williams said. “A wealth tax of the kind we support recognizes that grossly disproportionate rewards to a very small number of citizens will not result in a cohesive and equitable national community.”

Williams told the super-rich not to look at paying back to broader society as a tax burden, but as “an opportunity to build a stable, sustainable economy that works for everyone.”

wealth chart

Government figures show that the wealthiest 1% of households in the UK each have at least £3.6m. At the other end of the scale, the poorest 10% of households have £15,400 or less, with almost half carrying more debt than they have assets, according to data released last month by the Office for National Statistics.

This means that the gap between rich and poor had widened to the widest in more than a decade, even before the Covid pandemic hit.

Williams joined other leaders of the Church Action for Tax Justice campaign group in calling for the government to take urgent action to tackle inequality by introducing an initial one-off wealth tax on the wealthiest 1% of the UK population and committing to reforming the tax system to review the intention to introduce current wealth taxes.

A wealth tax on the top 1% could bring in at least £70bn a year, according to a Greenwich University study. That would be 8% of current total tax revenue, but would only affect around 250,000 households.

The Wealth Tax Commission, set up in 2020 to examine the costs and benefits of levying a wealth tax, recommended a one-off tax of 1% for households over £1m. It said the tax would raise £260billion – more than enough to cover funding for the NHS and social spending for a year.

Cat Jenkins, manager at Church Action for Tax Justice, said: “As Christians, we believe we are called to highlight injustices in our society and to speak and act for change. The system as it stands unfairly favors the rich over the less fortunate. In times like these, it is all the more important – and morally right – that the richest among us make a good contribution to the common good.”

The campaign group, which works with churches and Christians of various denominations, said: “It is time that the wealthiest in our country are asked to pay a good measure of taxes, rather than asking the less wealthy to pay larger and larger shares of their income to contribute to the common good.”

A group of more than 100 members of the super-rich have repeatedly urged governments around the world to impose higher taxes on them. The Patriotic Millionaires Movement, including Disney heiress Abigail Disney, said the tax system had been rigged in their favor and needed to be rewritten to make taxation fairer and restore trust in politics.

“As millionaires, we know that the current tax system is not fair,” they said in an open letter. “Most of us can say that even though the world has endured immense suffering over the past two years, we have actually seen our fortunes soar during the pandemic – but few of us can honestly say we’ve lived up to our fair share.” pay a share in taxes”.

Such taxes are being introduced in Argentina, Bolivia and Morocco to help recover from the pandemic. In Norway, around 500,000 people pay a 0.85% fee on their wealth over around £125,000.

The prospect of such a tax in Britain is the second biggest fear of the wealthy after the virus, according to Knight Frank’s wealth report.

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