Understanding Tax: SPERI launches new collaborative project with Tax Justice UK

SPERI has launched a new collaborative project with Tax Justice UK. The project – led at SPERI by Deputy Director Dr Liam Stanley – aims to understand how the public make sense of tax.

People crossing a city street.

Through public attitudes research in the form of focus groups and opinion polls the project will gain new insights that will inform the public and political conversation about tax, wealth and public spending. 

The knowledge exchange has been designed by drawing on important findings from Liam’s existing research on understanding tax. The project has received funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Awards via The University of Sheffield’s Internal Knowledge Exchange Scheme. Further funding was provided by the Friends Provident Foundation.

The first publication from the project – What’s wealth got to do with it? – was published by Tax Justice UK (TJ-UK) on February 17th. The report which was covered in The Guardian outlines findings from an initial set of focus groups held around the UK in the past two months. Its key findings include: people want to see more public spending and are open to higher taxes on wealth to help fund this; there was strong support for taxing income from wealth at the same level as income from work, and people were put off by language ‘bashing’ the rich.

Dr Liam Stanley, a technical advisor to TJ-UK, has conducted research on tax which led to the new collaboration:

  • Liam’s 2018 SPERI report Communicating Tax (with Rebecca Bramall) examined the government’s Annual Tax Summary – a document which provides UK taxpayers with a breakdown of how their taxes are spent – and proposed how the government could communicate differently to citizens about how it spends the tax they pay. 

After the Budget takes place on March 11th further focus groups and an opinion poll will be conducted which will focus on exploring which messages about wealth and tax resonate with the public. TJ-UK, Liam and other project partners will produce a new open-access report based on these further findings.

Further information about the first report from the project can be found here.