TaxPayers' Alliance

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Taxpayers' Alliance
Taxpayers' Alliance logo.png
Logo of the Taxpayers' Alliance
Abbreviation TPA
Formation 2004
Type pressure group and
taxpayers union
Legal status Limited company (The TaxPayers' Alliance Limited)
Purpose campaign for a low tax society
Headquarters London
Membership 18,000 (2008)[1]
Chief Executive Matthew Sinclair
Staff 13 (2009)
Website www.taxpayersalliance.com

The TaxPayers' Alliance is a British pressure group and think tank formed in 2004 to campaign for a low tax society. The group had about 18,000 registered supporters as of 2008,[1] and claimed to have 55,000 by September 2010.[2]

The mission of the TPA is "to reverse the perception that big government is necessary and irreversible; to explain the benefits of a low tax economy; to give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power; to oppose EU tax harmonisation."[3]

The TPA was referred to in The Guardian as "arguably the most influential pressure group in the country" in 2009.[4]

History[edit]

The TPA was founded in 2004 by "a group of "libertarian" Conservatives, frustrated by what they saw as the party's decision to ditch its traditional tax cutting message."[5] At the time the Conservative Party felt the need to match the Labour Party's spending plans, and the TPA aimed to represent, in the words of founder and Chief Executive Matthew Elliott, those "who want to have lower taxes and lower spending".[5] The attraction for donors, many associated with the Conservatives, is the ability of the TPA "to "fly kites" for policy ideas that may go on to be adopted as Conservative policy."[5]

The TPA's campaigning approach focussed on the media, relying in part on the reduction in journalists' investigation budgets. It aims to shape public opinion through the media by packaging its research "into brief, media-friendly research papers, complete with an eye-catching headline figure to give reporters a ready-made "top line"."[5] Its research is often based on "using the government's own data and Freedom of Information requests to winkle out examples of public sector waste".[5]

The TPA's income from donations rose from around £68,000 in 2005 to around £1m in 2009.[6]

In September 2010, it was reported that the TaxPayers' Alliance was organising an event sponsored by several American lobbyists and groups involved in the Tea Party movement, including the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.[7] The Alliance has also sought advice from the Tea Party leadership, with Matthew Elliott stating in September 2010: "We need to learn from our European colleagues and the Tea Party movement in the US. It will be fascinating to see whether it will transfer to the UK. Will there be the same sort of uprising?"[8]

Overview[edit]

Directors[edit]

Matthew Sinclair[9] is the current Chief Executive of The Taxpayers' Alliance.

Prominent supporters[edit]

In November 2004 and December 2005, the Alliance sent letters to the Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph in opposition to high taxation.[10] The signatories included:

Other TPA named supporters include Stuart Wheeler (who donated £5m to the Conservatives before he endorsed the UK Independence Party), Sir Rocco Forte (hotelier); and Sir John Craven (chairman of mining group Lonmin).[4]

Media exposure[edit]

In 2009, The TaxPayers' Alliance was mentioned 29 times by The Guardian, was quoted in 517 Daily Mail articles, 317 times in The Sun - including once by a topless model on Page Three.[4]

Party affiliation[edit]

The TaxPayers' Alliance is not officially affiliated with any political party. It has been accused of being a Conservative Party "front" by Labour MP Jon Cruddas.[4] Polly Toynbee in The Guardian and Kevin Maguire in The Daily Mirror have also levelled this charge,[11][12] although the group's leadership has denied it.[13] All three founders, and a number of TPA staff members have associations with the Conservative Party and have strong links with the Freedom Association.[14][15][16]

When Nick Ferrari asked TPA's campaign manager Susie Squire whether she was "secretly Conservative", she rejected the accusation as "outrageous" saying the organisation was "totally independent".[17] In 2010, Squire became a special adviser to the Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.

Funding[edit]

The Taxpayers' Alliance is constituted as a private company limited by guarantee in the UK - number 04873888.[18] As a small company, it is exempt from audit which means that it meets two of the following criteria:[19]

  • annual turnover of £6.5 million or less
  • balance sheet total of £3.26 million or less
  • fewer than 50 employees.

The alliance has two offices – one in London and one in Birmingham. Its website shows that, in March 2009, it employed 13 members of staff.

Donations[edit]

Sixty per cent of donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5,000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies.[4] David Alberto, co-owner of serviced office company Avanta, has donated a suite in Westminster worth £100,000 a year, because he opposes the level of tax on businesses.[4]

Construction magnate Malcolm McAlpine and a spokesman for JCB tycoon Sir Anthony Bamford, have said they also helped fund the TPA.[4]

The TPA does not release details of income or donors, and as such is a less transparent organisation than some other UK think tanks.[20][21][relevant? ]

The group has been accused of hypocrisy and possible illegality after it was revealed that it had been claiming tax relief on donations received from wealthy backers, which were intended for the purposes of political research.[22][23]

Campaigns, issues and publications[edit]

Stamp Out Stamp Duty[edit]

In 2013 a major campaign called Stamp Out Stamp Duty was launched by the TPA.[24] The campaign shares the objectives of a similar campaign group Stamp Duty Reform UK[25] The TPA claim that more than a quarter of home-buyers are now getting hit with a Stamp Duty bill for £7,500 or more, paying the 3 per cent rate.

Bumper Book of Government Waste[edit]

Since 2005 the Alliance has published an annual book, The Bumper Book of Government Waste, detailing perceived financial mismanagement in government departments, local government, devolved government, The Royal Family and the European Union.[26]

Council Spending Uncovered[edit]

The Council Spending Uncovered campaign uses accounts from every local authority in the United Kingdom, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, in order to "review spending by local authorities in all corners of the UK and identify a number of budgets that could and should be reduced....[the campaign] enables taxpayers to judge for themselves whether their money is well spent."[27] The Alliance argues that "By trimming the fat from their budgets, councils can reduce the burden on hard-pressed families and pensioners without cutting important services."[27]

So far the campaign has criticised:

  • £450 million of spending on local government publicity.[28]
  • a ninefold increase in the number of local government staff earning £50,000 or more[29]
  • that the "outdated" Local Government Pension Scheme, which costs £4.6 billion in employer contributions each year,[30] described by the TPA as equivalent to £1 in every £5 of council tax.

The TPA has published examples of ‘best practice’ in local government, highlighting achievements of councils which have cut taxes, reduced spending or introduced efficiency savings. Councils profiled include the London Borough of Croydon,[31] Woking Borough Council[32] and Hammersmith and Fulham.[33] It also regularly updates a list of steps that councillors can take to save money in local government.[34]

Google Government[edit]

The TPA is a leading proponent of "Google government", arguing that taxpayers have a right to scrutinise how their money is being spent, and citing the success of similar initiatives abroad, for instance USAspending.gov, which was established by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 in the USA. To that end, TPA publishes information on public spending on its website, including the council by council data of the Council Spending Uncovered research series and the What's My Car Tax? database which allows people to find out how the 2008 Budget will affect their car tax.[35]

MPs' Expenses[edit]

The Alliance has called for more accountability and transparency in Parliament. In the aftermath of the Derek Conway scandal over the misuse of funding for political researchers, the TPA has called for greatly increased transparency, improved scrutiny of expenses and the abolition of some expenses such as the allowance for MPs' second homes.[36] The Alliance has also written to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to request an investigation into the expenses of Michael Martin, the then Speaker of the House of Commons. They have not, however, argued for commensurate levels of accountability from pressure groups that receive commercial funding, and critics have argued that they are in favour of transparency only from people who are elected, as opposed to transparency for organisations that conduct political campaigning for commercial ends. [37]

Awards[edit]

In 2006, the TaxPayers' Alliance won the ConservativeHome “One to Watch” award. In November 2007, chief executive Matthew Elliott was presented with the Conservative Way Forward ‘One of Us’ award by shadow foreign secretary William Hague.

In 2007 the TPA won the Innovation Award at the Stockholm Network's "Golden Umbrellas" think tank awards.[38]

Criticisms and controversy[edit]

Tax affairs of non-executive director[edit]

In October 2009 Elliott admitted that an unpaid[39] non-executive director of the group, Alexander Heath, had not paid any British taxes for several years as he resides in the Loire, France. Heath has lived and paid taxes in France since 1973.[6]

Tax investigation of charitable arm[edit]

The charitable arm of the Taxpayers' Alliance — the Politics and Economics Research Trust — is under investigation by regulators following allegations that the group may have used the trust to gain tax relief for donations intended to fund political research.[22]

Revelations by The Guardian newspaper in 2009 resulted in the UK's Charity Commission opening a regulatory compliance case into the Trust.[22] It was reported in December of the same year that the alliance requested certain of its donors — identified as "private businessman" located in the English Midlands[22] - to channel funds through the trust for research into policies which might potentially damage their commercial interests.[22] This move allegedly allowed the Alliance to receive tax relief on the donations;[22] tax accountants have stated that the move potentially breached charity law, as UK commission guidelines state that organisations may not be charitable if they have political purposes.[23]

A spokesman for the Charity Commission was quoted as saying that the "scope of the investigation is to address the allegations relating to the charity's relationship with the Taxpayers' Alliance"; such cases are opened when "available information indicates misconduct or mismanagement has occurred" or otherwise when actions "may have been improper".[22]

John Prescott, former UK Deputy Prime Minister, stated that the Charity Commission's announcement of an investigation showed the Taxpayers' Alliance was "exploiting the taxpayer rather than protecting their interests as they claim to do".[22][23] He also wrote to Dame Suzi Leather, the Commission's chairwoman, requesting that the Alliance's charitable status be immediately suspended; he has in the past called the Alliance "a Conservative Party front".[22][40]

According to another report, Americans for Prosperity, another Tea Party group which claims to have 1.5m activists and is headed by oil billionaires, Koch brothers of Koch Industries, was also represented at the London conference, and helped fund it.[41]

Public services[edit]

An investigation by Tim Horton, research director of the left-wing Fabian Society, claimed the group is "fundamental to the Conservatives' political strategy", which he said was to destroy public confidence in politicians' ability to deliver public services, thereby paving the way for cuts.[4] "There is something deeply dishonest about their campaigns on government waste," he said. "Their aim isn't to make public spending work better, but to slash it dramatically. Yet none of them will campaign on their true vision of society: fewer public services. At least Thatcher was honest about the deal: less 'public' means you go private."[4]

The Other Taxpayers Alliance[edit]

An alternative organisation, The Other TaxPayers' Alliance, was set up in 2008 and claims to represent the 99.96% of the UK population who are not a member of the regular TPA. It campaigns for "fairer taxes, not lower taxes".[42][43]

Bibliography[edit]

Books
  • Matthew Elliott and Lee Rotherham, The Bumper Book of Government Waste, 2006, Harriman House
  • Matthew Elliott and Lee Rotherham, The Bumper Book of Government Waste 2008: Brown’s Squandered Billions, 2007, Harriman House
  • David Craig and Matthew Elliott, The Great European Rip-Off: How the Corrupt, Wasteful EU is Taking Control of Our Lives, 2009, Random House
  • David Craig and Matthew Elliott, Fleeced!: How we've been betrayed by the politicians, bureaucrats and bankers - and how much they've cost us, 2009, Constable & Robinson
  • Matthew Sinclair, How to Cut Public Spending: (and Still Win an Election), 2010, Biteback
Pamphlets
  • Matthew Elliott, Matthew Sinclair & Corin Taylor "How cutting corporation tax would boost revenue", September 2008

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Brian Wheeler (3 March 2008). "The campaign group: Taxpayers' Alliance". BBC Online. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Peev, Gerri (10 September 2010). "Could the American Tea Party protest movement be on its way to a fed-up UK?". Daily Mail (London). 
  3. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/about/mission.php
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Booth, Robert (9 October 2009). "Who is behind the Taxpayers' Alliance?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  5. ^ a b c d e BBC, 3 March 2008, The campaign group: Taxpayers' Alliance
  6. ^ a b Booth, Robert (2009-10-09). "Taxpayers' Alliance admits director doesn't pay British tax". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  7. ^ Inman, Phillip (7 September 2010). "US Tea Party in London to spread low tax message". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Hough, Andrew (10 September 2010). "TaxPayers' Alliance seeks advice from Tea Party movement leaders". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Profile of Matthew Sinclair
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Toynbee, Polly (26 August 2008). "Feeble Labour folds in the face of anti-tax paranoia". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  12. ^ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/columnists/maguire/2008/03/19/points-of-disorder-115875-20355809/
  13. ^ Wheeler, Brian (3 March 2008). "The campaign group: Taxpayers' Alliance". BBC News. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  14. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/about/2007/08/florence-heath.html
  15. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/about/2007/08/matthew-elliott.html
  16. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/about/2007/08/andrew-allum-fo.html
  17. ^ "Tax Payers Alliance challenged". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  18. ^ Companies House, THE TAXPAYERS' ALLIANCE LIMITED, accessed 13 May 2011
  19. ^ Companies House Annual Return Requirements http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/gbhtml/gp2.shtml#ch 6
  20. ^ "TPA". Who Funds You?. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  21. ^ Monbiot, George. "Think of a tank". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i Booth, Robert (29 December 2009). "Charity arm of Taxpayers' Alliance under tax investigation". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c Inman, Phillip (21 December 2009). "Tory tax allies 'subsidised' by the taxpayer". London: Talk Talk. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  24. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/home/2013/08/stamp-stamp-duty.html
  25. ^ http://stampdutyreform.org.uk
  26. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/waste/2007/10/the-bumper-book.html
  27. ^ a b http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/home/files/council_spending_uncovered_3_pension_contributions.pdf
  28. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/home/files/council_spending_uncovered_1_publicity.pdf
  29. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/home/files/council_spending_uncovered_2_middle_management_pay.pdf
  30. ^ http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/stats/pensions067.pdf
  31. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/home/2013/08/51675.html
  32. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/2013/10/cutting-spending-woking-borough-council.html
  33. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/2013/12/hammersmith-fulham-council-party-1999.html
  34. ^ http://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2013/11/201-ways-to-save-money-in-local-government.html
  35. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/whatsmycartax/
  36. ^ "Tax campaigners attack MPs who refuse to reveal how they spend £11.8m housing perk". Daily Mail (London). 7 February 2008. 
  37. ^ Coates, Sam (25 February 2008). "Speaker Michael Martins troubles grow as aide quits". The Times (London). Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  38. ^ http://www.stockholm-network.org/downloads/press/GUWinners.pdf
  39. ^ Elliott, Matthew (13 October 2009). "The Truth about the Taxpayers' Alliance". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  40. ^ Booth, Robert (11 October 2009). "John Prescott says tax lobby group is Tory front". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  41. ^ Booth, Robert (9 September 2010). "A very British Tea Party: US anti-tax activists advise UK counterparts". The Guardian (London). 
  42. ^ Toynbee, Polly (10 February 2009). "These rottweilers do the work of the Tories for them". The Guardian (London). 
  43. ^ http://www.taxpayersalliance.org/

External links[edit]