Survey shows, people want the government to green the tax system

A new survey conducted by BritainThinks for Green Alliance’s TransformTax project has revealed ‘broad support’ for greening the UK’s tax system.

The new survey findings suggest people want the government to do, and spend, more on the environment, with 80 per cent believing the government should be responsible for dealing with environmental issues. 62 per cent said they want higher government spending to address them.

The survey found that people believe they can do more, too, and that responsibility extends to them. 63 per cent feel it is important to change their own lifestyle to tackle climate change and 64 per cent say they have already made some changes.

It’s suggested that greening the tax system is ‘widely supported’. Green taxes would help people and companies to make more changes, says Green Alliance. Six in ten people showed support the principle of green taxes, with one in ten opposing it.

The survey also suggests that taxes related to carbon, unsustainable consumption and material use are also supported, with support for a number specific reforms, including: carbon taxes on producers (supported by 57 per cent, and opposed by only five per cent); carbon taxes on consumers (supported by 53 per cent, and opposed by 12 per cent); greening the VAT system (supported by 54 per cent, and opposed by nine per cent); and new material taxes (supported by 51 per cent, and opposed by 12 per cent).

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: ‘Tax is one of the most powerful tools government has to deliver policy, shape the economy and give people and businesses alike incentives to do the right thing. In the fight against climate change and nature’s decline, it’s not being used to anything like its full potential.

‘Far too often the system rewards bad behaviour and punishes those who want to do the right thing. This survey shows people want that to change and there is a mandate for the Treasury to reset its approach in its forthcoming Net Zero Review.’

A clear mandate

Green Alliance says this gives the government a ‘clear mandate’ to start to make changes to green the tax system.

It says steps should include ending current tax reliefs that ‘work against the government’s environmental goals’ while costing the Treasury £17 billion a year in lost revenue, as well as designing and implementing new taxes to ‘drive environmentally beneficial behaviours’.

‘Time is of the essence’ if government is to develop and implement ‘robust’ policies that can contribute to the UK tackling climate change and restoring nature at the speed necessary, it says.

It also says well designed reforms must not only to have positive environmental impact and avoid unintended consequences, but also to be fair, acceptable and understandable to taxpayers.

But Green Alliance says tax is not the whole answer to environmental challenges. It says we also need new regulatory changes and significant public and private investment.

‘But careful tax reforms are an important part of the broad set of policy measures that will shift the UK to a much more sustainable path, and deliver the green recovery the prime minister has promised,’ it says.

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