CARE: Christian Action, Research and Education

For what you believe
Open menu Close menu

Fairer taxes not 'better jobs' will help vulnerable in cost-of-living crisis

Marriage and Family
16 May 2022
Rachel Maclean

Press release | CARE has urged reform of the "unfair" income tax system to help struggling families after a Minister said people should get a better-paid job to cope with cost-of-living rises.

Rachel Maclean, safeguarding minister at the Home Office, has faced a backlash after she told Sky News people need to "protect themselves better" by "taking on more hours or moving to a better-paid job".

CARE criticised Ms Maclean's comments and stressed that existing rules on income tax and national insurance can be reformed to bring relief to the most vulnerable in years to come.

Spokesman Tim Cairns said:

"The out-of-touch comments by Ms Maclean point to a concerning lack of understanding of both the level of hardship people are facing, and the factors behind poverty.

"The government needs to consider a suite of measures to help Brits in the challenging fiscal environment we now inhabit. Measures that are built on fairness and compassion towards citizens.

"We have been calling for reform of the tax system to help families, who will be hardest hit. We again urge the government to act. Alongside other measures, a fairer tax system can help the vulnerable weather the storm."

Tax system 'unfair'

A CARE study produced in partnership with fiscal policy experts Tax & the Family, argues that the current approach to taxation is inherently unfair. It states:

"The UK tax system does not treat families fairly. The amount of tax that they pay bears little relationship to how well off they are. Many families in poverty pay income tax. Some in the bottom half of the income distribution even pay higher rate tax and are liable for the HICBC. This problem, which has been ignored by successive Chancellors, is a serious one, and needs to be tackled.

"Latest data from the ONS indicates that there are 27.8 million households in the UK.16 Nearly 8 million of these households are families with dependent children: 5.26 million couples with one or two children, 0.94 million couples with three or more, and 1.67 million single parent families.

"Families with a single income (one-earner couple families and single parent families) are the most disadvantaged by the income tax system. Our figures also suggest that families with two equal incomes may have higher tax liabilities than households without dependents. This unfairness is due to the fact that UK income tax is based on the individual and has little regard for family responsibilities."

Calling for significant "structural reform" of the income tax system, the report adds:

"What is needed is a culture change so that the household is recognised as the basic unit of taxation, just as it is for other purposes. This will enable the unfairness and disadvantages for families with children considered earlier in this report to be tackled and the UK system brought more closely into line with those in most other developed countries.

"The necessary structural change should start with a consultation paper which would look at how best the household basis might be introduced. However, the conclusions would take time to put into effect. Meanwhile short and medium term changes would be needed to reduce the inequalities that result from present system."

International comparisons

Analysis shows that the UK is out-of-step with other Western nations in terms of the tax burden it places on families as a proportion of income.

In the UK, a couple in a marriage or civil partnership with one income and two children earning the OECD average wage will surrender around 40% more than the comparable family in France, and nearly three times more than the comparable family in the US. The figures for a single mother with two children are similar.

Commenting on the report, Ross Hendry, CEO of CARE, said:

“Our country is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Across the UK, bills are rising. Many families are facing the heart-breaking dilemma of choosing between eating or heating. We must consider a range of legislative options to give UK citizens, and particularly the most vulnerable families, real help in the years ahead.

“The UK tax system fails to treat families fairly. The amount of tax that a family pays in the UK bears little relationship to how well off that household is. It is deeply concerning that families in poverty are paying income tax. It is shocking that families in the bottom half of income distribution pay tax at the higher rate.

“This unfairness in the tax system must be addressed. We call on Ministers to take account of our report's findings, and work towards a fairer system. We recognise that the culture change called for will be a big undertaking but as a society, we should always strive for what is fair and compassionate, even if it’s difficult to achieve.


Read the Report

The Taxation of UK Families 2021 Including International Comparisons for 2020

About CARE

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) provides analysis of social policy from a Christian perspective.

About Tax & the Family

Tax & the Family consists of independent consultants Leonard Beighton, Don Draper, and Alistair Pearson.

Leonard Beighton spent 37 years in the Inland Revenue, ending in 1994 as Deputy Chairman of the Board. In 2011 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

Don Draper worked on tax policy in the Inland Revenue for over 20 years before moving to PricewaterhouseCoopers. In retirement he has taken a special interest in the taxation of the family.

Leonard and Don are trustees of Tax and the Family Charitable Trust. Alistair Pearson is a management consultant with a concern for fairness in public policy.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Jamie Gillies |

Receive news from CARE each week

By signing up stay in touch you agree to receive emails from CARE. You can change your mailing preferences at any time either by getting in touch with CARE, or through the links on any of our emails.

Recent news in Marriage and Family


Marriage and Family

Strong families are foundational to a healthy society. Marriages too are vital, representing the gold standard of commitment. CARE is committed to upholding both.

Find out more about the cause