UK increasing taxes to pay for pandemic expenses

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that the United Kingdom will be raising taxes to address coronavirus-related backlogs in its health system.

The British government said it will increase taxes by 1.25 percent to cover $50 billion in new spending for the National Health Service (NHS) over the next three years, according to a news release.

“To ensure everyone contributes fairly, all working adults, including those over the state pension age, will pay the levy and the rates of dividend tax will also increase by 1.25% to help fund this package,” the government said. “Every individual will contribute according to their means. Those who earn more pay more, with the highest earning 14 percent of people paying around half the revenues.”

The increase, referred to as the Health and Social Care Levy, will raise $16.5 billion a year.

The British government said the pandemic has resulted in a record high 5.5 million patients currently waiting for elective surgery and routine treatment and warned that this number could increase to 13 million before the end of the year.

“You can’t fix the Covid backlogs without giving the NHS the money it needs,” Johnson said of the tax increase. “You can’t fix the NHS without fixing social care, you can’t fix social care without removing the fear of losing everything to pay for it, and you can’t fix health and social care without long-term reform. The plan I am setting out today will fix all of these problems together.”

With the tax increase, the government said the NHS will be able to fund an additional 9 million consultations, scans and operations.

The U.K. is among the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 7 million confirmed cases and more than 133,000 deaths. However, the country has excelled in vaccinating its population; almost 90 percent of those eligible have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the U.K.’s economy experienced the worst economic downturn among the Group of Seven countries during the pandemic, with its health system just barely getting by.

While Johnson’s plan goes against his own Conservative Party’s preference for low taxation, lawmakers appeared to support Johnson’s announcement.

“We finally have a longterm plan on health and social care!” British MP Nickie Aiken tweeted. “I welcome today’s announcement, and called to ensure the money raised goes to local authorities who are doing incredible work, as well as the NHS.”

“Well done @BorisJohnson for new life-changing plans – ducked for decades – to improve social care & help provide dignity for the most vulnerable people in our society,” MP Matt Hancock tweeted.

Tags Boris Johnson COVID-19 pandemic National Health Service NHS tax hike taxes UK

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