Tory tax cuts (or not?) made simple
• Do the Tories want to cut taxes?
Yes. They think tax cuts are necessary to keep the British economy competitive and they want "to roll back the state" (in old speak) or "roll forward the frontiers of society" (in Cameron)
• Will they cut taxes by £21 billion?
No. That's the total cost of the proposals produced by their Tax Commission. The shadow chancellor George Osborne said this morning that he would not be promising a reduction in taxation at the next election
• I'm getting confused. Are you saying that the Tories won't cut taxes at all?
Sorry but that's a "No". The Tories say they will cut what they call "family taxes" but they'll pay for that by putting green taxes up. They also say they will cut business taxes but that will be paid for cutting the many tax rebates which businesses currently pay.
• OK, I'm getting there now. So, the overall level of taxes will be the same under the Tories as Labour ?
Sorry again. That's another "no". The Tories say they'll share the proceeds of growth between increases in public spending and cuts in tax. In other words as the economy grows there'll spend some of the extra cash the Exchequer gets in on tax cuts whereas, they say, Gordon Brown would take it all for the Treasury.
• So, what taxes will they cut and what green taxes will go up?
They're not going to tell you that for quite some time.
• What have they got to hide?
To be fair - nothing. They don't know the state of the economy at the time of the next election. They don't know what Gordon Brown or the next chancellor will have done by then. They don't know what the political situation will be by then. And, most importantly, they haven't finished their policy work yet
• Shall I ignore this Tax Commission Report then?
No. Today's report (which you can download here - it's a PDF file) is a very detailed study of the problems the Tories believe are created by the over-complex tax system created by Gordon Brown; the book that details tax codes has - they claim - doubled in size since he took over. The shadow chancellor George Osbourne pledged to follow their advice on simplifying the tax code; cutting business tax rates to be paid for by cutting tax rebates and to look at their ideas for family tax cuts
• So, do the Tory leadership secretly agree with this report?
No. There's been quite a row behind the scenes between its authors and George Osborne. He wanted them to focus on tax reform and simplification. They insisted on arguing that tax cuts are easily affordable, would boost the economy overall and thus partly pay for themselves. Osbourne believes that's economically risky and is politically unsellable. They did a deal before today. The Commission would not demand upfront uncosted tax cuts and, in return, he would welcome their report.