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Will government heed the Fabian Society’s call for retired people to pay more tax?

Senior couple on walk

The Fabian Society propose that older people should pay more tax, largely on the grounds that many of them are no longer poor.  They should “share the pain of deficit reduction,” says author Andrew Harrop.  The essence of the argument is that measures to relieve poverty in older people have been largely successful.  The old image was of elderly people sitting in the cold wondering whether they could afford to put an extra stick on the fire, and unable to afford to eat properly.  Nowadays for disposable incomes, pensioner couples are in the top half of UK income distribution, with 80% owning homes, mostly fully paid off.

Others have made suggestions in similar vein, with calls to end the free TV licences for the over 75s and the free transport, winter fuel and Christmas bonuses for those over retirement age.  It is actually good news that most of the elderly are no longer poor.  Their generous treatment does involve a generational transfer, it is true, though for most the balance will tip when their estate is passed on to their children.  The Fabian call is unlikely to be heeded, however, because of simple political arithmetic.  There are many more adults over 65 than are below 25, and they are twice as likely to vote.  That gives them much greater political clout.  Government is unlikely to take them on, especially one that relies on a large proportion of their votes.

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