Viral tweet on wealth tax generating £250 billion for NHS is misleading

23 February 2022
What was claimed

A 0.05% financial transactions tax would raise £250 billion which could pay for a 15% pay rise for NHS workers until 2049.

Our verdict

The £250 billion such a tax is estimated to raise is a global tax, and so would not be spent on the NHS alone.

Trade unionist Howard Beckett has claimed that a 0.05% wealth tax on financial transactions would raise £250 billion per year, in a tweet shared thousands of times. Mr Beckett, who is Assistant General Secretary for the Unite union, says that in one year this could pay for a 15% pay rise for NHS workers until 2049. This is not correct.

The £250 billion figure appears to refer to a statistic that has been used prominently by the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which campaigns for the introduction of such a tax, for at least a decade.

It’s unclear how the figure was calculated, and we’ve asked Mr Beckett and the Robin Hood Tax campaign for more information. However, putting that aside for now, it’s an estimate of how much could be raised globally by such a tax, not just in the UK.

When it has previously talked about this statistic, the Robin Hood Tax campaign estimated the tax could raise £20 billion in the UK alone.  

That means while it may be technically correct that such a tax globally could raise enough to fund a 15% NHS pay rise for 22 years, it may be misleading to suggest this would ever be plausible. A global tax would not be spent on a single country’s health service and the entire £250 billion would be required to pay for such a pay rise.

The latest figures put the NHS England wage bill in 2019/20 at £56.1 billion for all permanent and bank staff. This doesn’t include the salaries of GPs, employees from the Department of Health and Social Care and other national bodies, such as NHS England and NHS Improvement. Nor does it include the wage bills of the NHS in other parts of the UK.

A 15% pay rise would cost £8.4 billion per year; £250 billion would pay for this pay rise for around 30 years. 

The UK does already have some financial transaction taxes, including a 0.5% tax on purchases of shares. 

Image courtesy of Txllxt TxllxT

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