Shock news: Tax Payers’ Alliance nearly accurate

Last year, the right-wing Tax Payers’ Alliance railed against ‘road tax’. Following complaints the “independent, non-partisan” organisation now rails against Vehicle Excise Duty.

Sadly, when regurgitating parts of the TPA’s press release, The Sun yesterday went off-script and ranted about “road tax”, a tax abolished in 1937.

MOTORISTS pay for their road use more than twice over in tax to the Government, The Sun can reveal.

Less than half the cash demanded by Whitehall from drivers gets ploughed back into road costs, leaving them subsidising the rest of Britain.

A total of £30billion is paid annually in fuel and road tax.

Ignoring the fact that The Sun’s graphic artist can’t use a calculator, the basic argument that motorists “subsidise the rest of Britain” is disengenous. Taxation is not ring-fenced. Tax raised by one activity or one subset of people does not go back to that activity or that subset of people.

As is explained elsewhere, the money paid by motorists does not have to go back to motorists. If it did, all hell would break loose. Interest groups of all creeds and colours would start demanding “their” tax contributions should only go to fund “their” projects. Society does not work that way; cannot work that way.

There are no taxation opt-outs: married couples without kids cannot strike out the amount of tax that pays for schools; pacifists cannot strike out the amount of tax that goes on defence spending. And motorists can’t successfully demand that the money they give to the Government is given straight back to them in the shape of smoother, less congested roads.

If you come across such arguments the simple answer is this: Airline passengers pay taxes when they fly from British airports but nobody suggests all this money should go to building more runways. It’s the same for booze: taxes levied on drinkers do not get spent on creating bigger, swankier pubs.

The Tax Payers’ Alliance seems to be getting a little better at understanding how taxation works. Its director, Mr Genghis Khan, even allows his policy wonks to talk about Pigovian taxes and the hidden externalities of mass motoring. In this report – upon which The Sun based yesterday’s article – the TPA, accurately, used “Vehicle Excise Duty” and “motoring taxes” throughout. All except on the final graphic: old habits die hard and it slipped in one small mention of “road taxes.”

Nearly accurate: for the TPA that’s quite some achievement.