Call for wealth tax as number of British billionaires rise 20% since pandemic | The super rich

The number of British billionaires has increased by a fifth since the start of the Covid pandemic, according to a report calling for a progressive wealth tax to tackle rising inequality amid the cost of living crisis.

The charity Equality Trust said interventions by governments and central banks during the pandemic enabled an “explosion of billionaire wealth” in Britain at the expense of the rest of society, following an explosion in property values ​​and the stock market.

At the outbreak of the global health emergency three years ago, the Bank of England and other major central banks around the world dropped interest rates to zero and pumped billions of pounds into the financial markets through their asset-buying programs of quantitative easing of bonds. Aiming to soften the edges of the worst recession in three centuries by supporting businesses, households and governments with lower borrowing costs, the report found that the policy also helped drive up asset prices, lining the pockets of wealthy investors.

The Equality Trust said this has helped push the number of British billionaires from 147 in 2020 to 177 this year, with the average billionaire now owning around £2 billion.

“This sudden explosion of extreme wealth was largely due to measures aimed at mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, as central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets, leading to a stock market boom that shareholders’ pockets,” said Jo Wittams, co-executive director of the Equality Trust, in a report published Monday.

“While Covid-19 has seen the wealth of billionaires rise to levels never seen before, the construction of the economic infrastructure that has enabled this massive accumulation stretches back over the past four decades.”

The report found that the number of billionaires in the UK had increased more than tenfold from 15 in 1990 when the Sunday Times first published its Rich List, taking into account inflation over that period.

Using inflation-adjusted wealth data from archival copies of the Rich List, it said the combined wealth of Britain’s billionaires had risen from £53.9 billion in 1990 to more than £653 billion in 2022. wealth of billionaires by more than 1,000% in the past 32 years,” the report said.

“That we have allowed the very rich to amass such a staggering amount of the country’s wealth since 1990 is a national disgrace,” Wittams said. “The UK’s record of wealth inequality is appalling, grossly unfair and poses a real threat to our economy and society.

“Each year we are invited to celebrate the very wealthiest individuals and families in the UK, as food bank use continues to increase, 3.9 million children live in poverty and 6.7 million households struggle to heat their homes. That these are two sides of the same coin is rarely mentioned.”

Wittams said that inequality need not be inevitable. “The right policies can have a positive impact,” she said. “We call on the government to tax wealth in line with income, reform the financial sector and end the UK’s role in tax avoidance. Two thirds of the British public agree that ordinary working people are not getting their fair share of the country’s wealth and it is time the government took action.”

Tax equality campaigners claim the government could raise up to £37bn to help pay for public services if it introduced a range of wealth taxes.

Tax Justice UK has called on the government to push through five tax reforms aimed at the very wealthy, who the campaign group said had done “financially very well” during the coronavirus crisis and national lockdowns, rather than trying to cash in save with further cuts in public services .

“Tax is about political choices. At a time when most people are being hit hard by the cost of living crisis, it would be wrong to cut public services further,” said Tom Peters, Head of Advocacy for Tax Justice UK. “The wealthy have done very well financially in recent years. The chancellor should protect government spending by properly taxing wealth.”

The campaign group, which advocates for a “fairer tax system that actively redistributes wealth to tackle inequality,” is proposing five wealth tax reforms.

The measures include equating capital gains tax with income tax, abolishing the non-dom regime and introducing a 1% tax on the super-rich’s wealth in excess of £10m – which they say will in itself cost £10bn. could be.