Paying our taxes with a smile.

by Harry on November 6, 2010

A slightly mischievous piece by one Tim Brighouse makes a suggestion to members of the Browne commission which, I am sure, as members of the big society they will want to take up by making large donations, and to the government which, again, I’m sure they’ll be delighted to adopt as policy: a graduate tax on those of us who got our college education for free at a time when it produced a significant wage premium (oddly enough an age span that begins with my dad and ends with my sister). Here’s a taste:

When I first read the Browne report I was puzzled, as I am sure we all were, by the false logic. The cuts are governed by a general desire not to pass on our current debts to future generations, yet this report is apparently happy to load some of it on prospective young graduates. How can we explain that to our teenagers?

My second response when reading the report was to feel unusually guilty and ashamed. It should have the same effect on anybody aged between 45 and 70, for we are the “charmed generations”, as we often privately admit to one another.

We were showered with all manner of blessings: we missed the Second World War; we didn’t give up two years of our lives to national service; and we enjoyed the benefits of the newly created welfare state. If we own a house, for many years we enjoyed tax relief on mortgage interest payments. And to cap it all we either have or can expect reasonable, and in some cases generous, occupational pensions, which succeeding generations will not.

Most important of all – and this is where the Browne report comes in – the fortunate few in our charmed generations who attended college or university, unlike our successors, enjoyed free tuition and were given grants to live on as undergraduates.

In my case, in 1958 it was £300, which is equivalent to £12,000 today – more than half the starting salary of a teacher. In today’s money that is about £50,000 over the four years it took me to complete my degree and PGCE, and the state paid for the tuition at about the same cost, amounting to £100,000 in all. No wonder some of us felt we owed the state – and future generations – something in return.

Disclosure: in the traditional role of more tech-savvy offspring I found the online calculators that enabled him to do the inflation adjustment. (That I am more tech-savvy than him tells you a lot about how tech-unsavvy he is).