Your editorial (1 April) recommending means-testing prescription charges asserts that this is a good way of taxing “those who can best afford it”. The general principle of means-testing “benefits” – ie taxing those who are judged to be able to pay for whatever “benefits” are received, or not permitting “benefits” to be accessed – has always ended in muddy waters.
Universal supports and reliefs help the needy for sure, and there is nothing wrong in improving the quality of life for those who have low incomes through no fault of their own.
But where do you begin to take the supports and reliefs away from the better-off?
Similarly, loose talk about taking more from the undefined “rich” or “wealthy” without specifying what is meant is, frankly, inadequate.
The “better-off” earners already pay more income tax, and mansion and bonus taxes if introduced would also somewhat narrow whatever gap is perceived, capital gains tax and inheritance tax do the same unless ducked out of.
But with prescription charges, free bus passes and the like, what cut-offs would be introduced?
It might be better to keep universal benefits, and raise income tax instead, plus eliminating national insurance payments for the low-paid.
And, as always, increasing the minimum wage by more than inflation.
Then there are special personal tax allowances for many kinds of business investments – should these be phased out.
What about ISAs? Let’s have clearer thinking from our politicians before attempting any redistributions – for example, beware the land and buildings transaction tax proposals to compel sell-offs if “sustainable development” is not seen. Who decides?