Does information about wealth inequality and inheritance tax raise public support for the wealth taxes? Evidence from a UK survey

Rajiv Prabhakar, Andy Lymer, Karen Rowlingson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


While greater use of wealth taxes has been widely called for in recent academic and popular literature, they seem to be particularly unpopular among the public. In particular, inheritance tax is often singled out the most disliked of all taxes. The unpopularity of wealth taxes matters because this undermines the use of these taxes as a way of potentially both reducing levels of wealth inequality and of providing alternative revenue streams to a Government in times of economic stress. But do the public really oppose wealth taxes from position of adequate knowledge of these taxes – given their relative limited use, and in inheritance taxes’ case, limited incidence? Rather, there is evidence that people are poorly informed about the extent of wealth inequality and the potential for wealth taxes to assist in improving equality. The research reported in this paper explores if information provision to correct false knowledge (or validate correct knowledge) about wealth inequality and inheritance tax could be a suitable, simple, intervention to help raise public support for the wealth taxes? This paper reports results from a face-to-face survey of 2,019 adults aged 16 plus in Great Britain carried out in July 2014. The survey shows that the simple provision of corrective/validating information prompted little change in the positive support for various wealth tax proposals currently being debated. In fact, there is evidence that some of the provision of information, in fact decreased initial levels of comparative support. One implication resulting from this research is that policy-makers will have to engage directly with moral arguments that have been constructed that arguably misinform debates or develop compelling narratives if there is a desire to build support for wealth taxes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBuilding Trust in Taxation
EditorsBruno Peeters, Hans Gribnau, Jo Padisco
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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