One of the biggest political battles within the Coalition surrounds the fate of the 50p tax rate. Those on the right question its effectiveness, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggesting it costs more in lost taxes than it yields in additional revenue. Others have suggested it is an essential plank in restoring fiscal stability, and a manifestation of Cameron’s statement that ‘we are all in this together’.
There had been plenty of taxes before income tax – estate duties, ship money, window tax, wool tax, brick tax, wallpaper tax and the gloriously named ‘hair powder taxes’. Duties have been levied on beards, newspapers, paper, tea, ribbons, perfumes and horses.
Income tax itself, however, is barely 200 years old, was first announced in 1798 and introduced in 1799. It was part of a series of desperate measures taken by the UK Parliament to finance the ruinously expensive wars against Napoleonic France.