Plans to raise taxes are never popular policies. When they are announced in election manifestos, they are often buried deep beneath promises of spending, or omitted all together.

This time around, Wales’ parties have once again sought to distance themselves from the plans to hike up taxes that now fall within the scope of the Senedd’s powers.

The fact taxation has not played a larger role in the parties’ manifestos is rather puzzling, considering the Welsh Government has greater power over taxation than in any previous election.

Taxes devolved to Wales include land transaction tax and landfill disposals tax, while it also has control of over £2 billion worth of income tax in Wales.

It may have played a minimal role in the first half of this election campaign, but tax has now been jumped on by the Welsh Conservatives.

According to the Tories, each working adult in Wales could pay up to £1,084 more a year under Labour.

Delivering his party’s accusations, Russell George said: “After the most difficult 12 months peacetime Wales has ever experienced, we need to be helping families, workers and businesses get back on their feet - not taxing them to high heaven.”

The Tories say Labour is potentially planning to increase the basic rate of income tax, increase council tax, and introduce a parking levy and road tolls.

None of these taxation policies are in Labour’s manifesto, and the party has said it will “not take more in Welsh rates of income tax from Welsh families for at least as long as the economic impact of coronavirus lasts.”

Welsh Labour immediately countered the Tories’ claims, calling them “desperate lies”. A spokesperson for the party continued: “The Tories have given up on the truth and are spouting nonsense to scare people.

“None of our spending plans rely on increasing taxes, including income tax. There’s no trunk road tax.

“The Tories are the only party that plan for a tax hike on tourism, with the current VAT rate of 5 per cent for tourism businesses in Wales from September, back up to 20 per cent by March.

“On council tax, bills are rising more sharply in England thanks to deliberate Tory choices.”

Plaid Cymru, who plan to spend big in order to deliver its self styled 'radical' manifesto, has also said it will not change the rates of income tax within the control of the Welsh Government in the next Senedd term.

Plaid has however pledged to allow councils to charge council tax premiums of up to 200 per cent on second homes, while also bringing forward regulations to treble the land transaction tax charge on the purchase of second properties.

The Lib Dems also have no plans at to alter the rate of income tax in Wales, however they have committed to coampaigning for greater fiscal devolution, pressing for greater borrowing powers, and for "greater freedom and autonomy in allocating spending".


While the parties argue over who would tax the least, independent fiscal research of the next Welsh Government’s budget spells trouble for whichever party is in power after May 6.

Research by the Wales Governance Centre shows that both the Welsh NHS and local authorities face a significant shortfall in funding during the next Senedd term.

Guto Ifan, a researcher on the Wales Fiscal Analysis project, told The National: “No party has suggested increasing devolved income tax rates yet in this election.

“However, debates around the use of income tax powers over the next Senedd term will need to reflect the post-pandemic context and UK government spending plans which ultimately determine the size of the Welsh budget.

“Our analysis suggests there will be significant post-pandemic spending pressures on many areas of the Welsh budget, from rebuilding the NHS, boosting schools spending, to underlying pressures for social care.

“Meanwhile, current UK government spending plans after this year have been reigned back significantly compared to pre-pandemic plans.

“That makes for a difficult outlook for the Welsh budget over the course of the next Senedd term and implies difficult choices for the next Welsh Government.

“If the UK government doesn’t change course, then devolved income tax could play a part in meeting future challenges.

“Even an incoming Welsh Conservative government will be hoping for a significant change in UK government spending plans – otherwise, meeting post-pandemic spending pressures and delivering its manifesto promises will be very difficult.”

Last week, Professor Calvin Jones of Cardiff University’s Welsh Economy Research Unit, said a decision to freeze business rates would lead to increased pressure elsewhere, after a survey from the Federation of Small Businesses found that businesses in Wales believe the next Welsh Government should prioritise cuts to business rate taxes.

Professor Jones told The National: “From a Small and Medium Enterprise perspective and from a business perspective – anything that reduces the cost of doing business is a good thing.

“You can see how, particularly post-pandemic, a freeze to business rates would be viewed as very helpful.

“But taking a wider societal point of view, that money will then have to come from somewhere else. It’s not one to lose.

“You wouldn’t want to necessarily see burdens of other tax increase whilst business rates are frozen.”

Professor Jones believes that the struggles faced by small businesses, both before the pandemic and now, are more an issue of the structure of the Welsh taxation system itself which he says is outdated and in desperate need of reform.

“I think there’s a wider issue here, around business rates, and the way we tax entrepreneurship, wealth, property, in Wales and in the UK – it’s fundamentally broken," he continued.

As the rhetoric and analysis of manifesto funding ramps up as we near polling day on May 6, Wales’ parties may well come under increasing pressure to come clean with the Welsh public on the harsh realities facing Wales over the next five years and beyond.

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