£800,000,000,000 missing in official data on UK's wealthiest 1%
Official statistics do not account for at least £800 billion in assets held by the wealthiest 1% of people in the UK, a think tank has claimed.
The oversight would mean that the country’s richest few actually own nearly a quarter of UK wealth and that national inequality has been dramatically underestimated.
The UK is already a highly unequal society compared with many nations around the world, but the Resolution Foundation’s new findings would mean 1% of households account for 23% of its wealth, rather than 18%. It says 5% of UK wealth ‘missing’ from Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures ‘conservatively’ amounts to around £800 billion – but could ‘easily’ exceed that figure.
Jack Leslie, an economist with the Foundation, explained: ‘The UK has undergone a wealth boom in recent decades, which has continued even while earnings and incomes have stagnated. But official data has struggled to capture these gains, and misses £800 billion of assets held by the very wealthiest households in Britain.
‘With the country facing a decade of mounting fiscal pressures, now is the time for Britain to do a better job of taxing its record levels of wealth by reforming our capital gains, inheritance and property taxes.’
The Resolution Foundation is now calling for higher taxes on the wealthiest ahead of a ‘decade of mounting fiscal pressure’.
Its research merged the official ONS Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) with data published in the Sunday Times Rich list to create what it sees as a more accurate picture of UK wealth distribution.
Danny Dorling, a world-leading expert on inequality who works at Oxford University, told Metro.co.uk: ‘The more closely researchers look into the wealth of the best-off 1%, the greater the slice of the cake we find they have taken.’
The Resolution Foundation said that even without the £800 billion, ‘wealth across the UK is very unequally distributed – with total wealth inequality around twice as high as income inequality’.
It went on: ‘With the UK entering a decade of mounting fiscal pressures – both due to the cost of the pandemic and an ageing population causing health and welfare spending to rise by £38bn a year by 2030 decade – the Foundation says that wealth taxation will need to play a bigger role in the UK economy over the course of the 2020s.
‘The Foundation is calling on the Chancellor to embark on the biggest reforms to wealth taxation in a generation – including via the restriction of capital gains and inheritance tax reliefs (together raising several billion), and adding a Council Tax Supplement of 1 per cent on properties worth over £2 million (raising over £1 billion).’
A HM Treasury spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘Our priority right now is to support jobs and the economy.
‘By protecting jobs and creating new opportunities through the Kickstart scheme and apprenticeships, we will be able to grow our economy and create wealth when more businesses are able to reopen again.
‘We’re committed to a fair and efficient tax system.’
Metro.co.uk has contacted the ONS for comment.
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