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The British Tax System: Opposing Trends


  • Price Victoria Curzon

    (University of Geneva)


This article points to the highly centralized nature of the British tax system. A first section shows how all tax law derives from Parliament, the onlie begetter of legally enforceable instruments. It is suggested that this system is not democratically accountable at sub-national levels of government. Reforms of the Thatcher era have resulted in the privatization of many public services, leading to the stabilization of State expenditure as a proportion of GDP. However, at the same time, both tax revenue and expenditure have become increasingly centralized. Public service tasks are determined and financed by central government, and local government is for the most part merely the agent through which government policy is realized. The creation of the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies does not alter this overall assessment. Given the high level of centralization, taxes are uniform throughout the country and there is no scope for meaningful regional fiscal competition. Since regional economic development in Britain is notoriously uneven, the author notes that fiscal uniformity does not lead to economic convergence. A final section is devoted to showing why this is not surprising and why fiscal harmonisation at a European level would be a source of growing, not reduced, disparities.Cet article met laccent sur la nature hautement centralisée du système fiscal britannique. Une première section montre comment toutes les lois fiscales proviennent du Parlement, la source unique des instruments légaux exécutoires. Nous considérons que ce système nest pas démocrat- iquement defendable aux niveaux subnationaux de gouvernement. Les réformes de lère Thatcher ont conduit à une privatisation de beaucoup de services publics, entrainant une stabilisation des dépenses de lEtat en pourcentage du PIB. Cependant, dans le meme temps, à la fois les recettes fiscales et les dépenses sont devenues de plus en plus centralisées. Les taches du service public sont définies et financées par le gouvernement central et le gouvernement local est dans la majeure partie des cas lagent à travers lequel la politique du gouvernement sexerce. La creation des Assemblées Ecossaises et galloises ne modifie pas cette evaluation densemble. Etant donné le niveau élevé de centralisation, les impôts sont uniformes à travers le pays et il ny a pas de possibilité pour une concurrence fiscale régionale significative. Alors que le développement économique regional en Grande Bretagne est notoirement inégal, lauteur remarque que luniformité fiscale ne conduit pas à uneconvergence économique. Une section finale est consacrée à montrer pourquoi cela nest en rien surprenant et pourquoi lharmonisation fiscale à un niveau européen serait une source de disparités croissantes, et non décroissantes.

Suggested Citation

  • Price Victoria Curzon, 2003. "The British Tax System: Opposing Trends," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 13(4), pages 1-18, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:4:n:8

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