The TV License Is A Tax So Why Not Make It Progressive?

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We’re always going to have a progressive tax system even if not every component of it is itself progressive. Quite apart from Adam Smith’s point that perhaps more than in proportion is fair as a contribution to the public weal it’s also true that the rich have more money so why not make them cough up more?

But that leaves us with the question of whether every tax should be more than in proportion:

Wealthy could be charged more for their TV licence, suggests Lord Hall

The TV license is a tax. Gordon Brown declared it so near two decades back. So, should richer people pay more for the BBC? It’s a legitimate question:

The BBC has hinted that wealthier viewers will be asked to pay more as the corporation prepares to end free licences for those over 75.

Of course, to have a system that is able to identify wealthier viewers it will be necessary to get HMRC running the collection system. We’re not going to allow the BBC to pry into our financial affairs, after all. Quite apart from the fact that trying to run a parallel system estimating incomes would be grossly, overly, expensive.

That is, to work, this would have to be a tax collected through the normal tax system. Which has its merits.

I also think this is a last gasp attempt to keep that taxation funding. I can;t see any fair system that is not a subscription. They could even ask Sky how to do it as they’ve already got all the necessary infrastructure…..

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NDReaderMichael van der RietBloke in GermanyLeo SavanttThe Mole Recent comment authors
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Esteban
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Esteban

I notice it says “wealthier viewers will be asked to pay more” – note the word “asked”. So it may just be a begging & shaming campaign, which is how U.S. public TV raises some of its money & is preferable to coercion.

Of course history is full of examples where the gov’t spoke of “asking” for people to “contribute” more when they were really using the power of the State (ultimately a gun) to force them to do so.

Spike
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Spike

This is stock Obama/Biden/AOC rhetoric for processes that are not “asking for contributions.” It is (intentionally) impossible from the rhetoric to tell whether the force of law will be used. But the BBC uniformly believes it is valiant for not stooping to voluntary payments, and the director-general is studying “can you make it fairer?” not can you make it more consensual, nor can you make it easier to administer. Indeed, wouldn’t it be fairer if Tories paid double?

Kaizen Matsumoto
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Kaizen Matsumoto

It would be great to make it progressive, would make all the rich supporters of the BBC reconsider how much they actually value it

The Mole
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The Mole

HMRC aren’t the only tax collecting body. I would have thought collection through council tax would be far more effective and simpler. The license fee would be based on the band of your house and the council already know the necessary details to allow for exemptions based on age or benefits. In effect the BBC would become another precept receiving a distribution of the money. It would also have the ‘convenient’ side effect that failing to pay the TV license would be failing to pay your council tax bill which is already a criminal offence without the BBC/Capita having to… Read more »

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

The system you advocate is basically in place in Germany. The problem however is that if in Germany you do not watch television you still have to pay the tax. far better would be to make the BBC a voluntary subscription service.

The Mole
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The Mole

In theory collecting by council tax bill and supporting opt-out isn’t incompatible. There are already all sort of special purpose collections that are very fine grained (communal Garden squares for instance) so imagine the framework is already there in theory. There are a number of potential problem of a subscription service: – it renders the vast majority of currently owned TVs and STB obsolete potentially requiring hardware upgrades. – You either have to assume every device has an internet connection, or have to buy a smartcard per device (more tvs = more costs) – Dealing with piracy (login sharing, card… Read more »

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Interestingly the BBC was originally a private concern, it was taken over by the state for the explicit reason of controlling what was broadcast. I can see no reason why it should not become a voluntary subscription service and many as to why the licence fee must and should be abolished. 10% of all cases in British courts are for non-payment of the licence fee, in a lawless and violent country like the UK, child rape capital of the developed world etc., that it an obscene proportion. Personally I would prefer the BBC itself to be abolished and the individual… Read more »

NDReader
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NDReader

“There are a number of potential problem of a subscription service: – it renders the vast majority of currently owned TVs and STB obsolete potentially requiring hardware upgrades.”
There are other channels, of course. People might then have a straight decision to make as to whether the BBC is worth paying for.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Many taxes are not progressive, council tax, tax on electricity (25%!), VAT, excise duties etc. etc. It is broadly only income tax and its sibling National Insurance that are “progressive”.

Believers in equality should get behind a flat rate income tax, after all why should the law treat you differently just because you have more or less income? More importantly a flat rate income tax would help do away with the corrosive us and them attitude that divides people and polarises society.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

What’s most important is that it is administered via a 36-page form which you have to fill out and return on time on pain of a fixed penalty. The form must take, for people with the simplest of financial arrangements, at least two evenings every year to fill out. And while you get a month to decide whether to argue the toss over the assessment you get back being too high, the authorities can go after you for a tax they assessed as too low for at least 10 years.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

What’s wrong with advertising? TV ads are made by top creative teams to make a lasting impression. A lot of them are quite good. OTOH Beeb interstitials promoting their forthcoming attractions are specifically intended so that you have time to visit Auntie Mabel and put the kettle on, without missing a damned thing. The volume stays at a sort of brave new world soothing hum level with bland non-copyrighted muzak that doesn’t wake the whole block when the ads come on. The word is anodyne and someone probably gets paid a heck of a lot to make those interstitials as… Read more »