It will probably still be a day or two before there are any polls to gauge reaction to the budget, but there was a rather surprising Populus poll commissioned for the BBC’s run-up to the budget.
The poll covered the subject of inheritance tax. While this is a highly emotive subject for a small section of society, my own assumption had always been that the tax was only really a concern for that minority of people wealthy enough to fall into the clutches of inheritance tax, but not wealthy enough to afford to dodge it. Populus’s poll reveal far wider opposition to the tax than I for one had suspected.
Only 25% of people thought that “having an inheritance tax on the value of the assets people leave when they die” was a fair way of raising government revenue. 73% thought that the very principle of inheritance tax was unfair.
Of course, if you ask people if they like paying a tax you should expect to get no as an answer, since few people enjoy paying taxes. Questions on whether a particular tax should be cut or removed are of dubious worth unless there is some sort of indication of how or if the revenue lost would be made up. Populus’s second question therefore asked if people would support abolishing inheritance tax and making up the lost revenue by putting a penny on income tax – 59% of people said they would support such a move, with only 37% opposed.
Sadly Populus didn’t publish the breakdowns by income or tenure (whether people owned a house or not), but certainly there did not seem to be any sigificant difference between the opinions of different social classes. Older people, whose assets are most likely to be subject to inheritance tax in the near future (though, of course, are presumably less likely to inherit money from more elderly relatives), were slightly more likely to support the scrapping of inheritance tax.
76% of people also agreed that, if there is to be an inheritance tax, it should affect “only affect very rich people so the starting level should be much higher than £275,000”. 22% disagreed.
While this does suggest that there is very wide opposition to inheritance tax, it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t indicate how deep that opposition is. People’s assets are only subject to inheritance tax only once, and they are not around to notice it, and recieving large, taxables inheritances should also be a rare occassion in most peoples’ lives. People have to pay most other forms of taxation far more often. While people say they don’t like inheritance tax, there’s nothing in this poll to suggest it is a particularly salient issue for most people.