Public attitudes on taxation






November 2019 to October 2020

Grant Awarded



Project summary

A public deliberative inquiry on how to raise the tax needed to preserve public services and to pay for the needs of an ageing population.


Enough tax to fund good public services and a decent safety net is essential to the wellbeing of those on low-to-middle incomes. However, what is ‘enough’ is growing: just to pay for an ageing population and rising health sector costs will require an additional £85bn by 2034 over and above any increase generated by a growing economy, and this before any increased spend on other services.

This poses a significant risk to those on low-to-middle incomes: without tax increases, parts of the welfare state are in danger of being hollowed out. On the other hand, politicians are under constant electoral pressure not to increase taxes. Politicians therefore need to find electorally and economically feasible ways of raising tax that do not harm those on low-to-middle incomes, potentially including under-utilised tax bases such as land and assets. They also need to find language and framing that will help make these taxes more acceptable to voters, including those who stand to be negatively impacted.

Project overview

Initially the work will identify a long list of up to tax proposals using secondary research. These will be refined for use in the workshops with the public following expert advice.

The team will undertake deliberative workshops with the public to develop an understanding of the proposals most acceptable to voters, the criteria they use for assessing them, and the language they use for describing those they favour. The workshops will take place over a series of days in Scotland, Wales, London and the NE.

The team will then assess the wider acceptability of these solutions through polling with a sample of 2,000 using questions based on the arguments supported or disputed in the workshops.

The project will engage politicians and officials in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff with advice on how to introduce tax increases likely to be acceptable to voters. It will also provide advice on tax structure (for example whether and when to hypothecate) and on the language and framing most likely to win support for the most promising proposals (for example what new taxes are called). Funding was also provided for the development of an online tax calculator.