Information

Tax policy and the budget – a framework for tax: consultation analysis

Results of the consultation we launched on 31 August 2021 on Tax Policy and the Budget – a Framework for Tax. This sought views on our overarching approach to tax policy, through Scotland’s first Framework for Tax, and how we should use its devolved and local tax powers.


5. Annex B – Public Attitudes Data

The Scottish Government has two longstanding tax questions in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey covering 1) attitudes towards the level of tax and spending, and 2) attitudes towards the redistribution of income. However, the latest data from the survey is from 2019 and the Scottish Government sought to bridge this data gap and gather up-to-date evidence on tax knowledge and attitudes in Scotland.

In October 2020 and October 2021 the Scottish Government included questions in a YouGov omnibus survey to gather data on public attitudes to, and knowledge of, tax. The questions focused on the following areas:

  • Attitudes to levels of tax and spending.
  • Views on personal tax levels (2021 only).
  • Knowledge of the Scottish and UK tax systems.

Key Findings

  • A majority of people in Scotland (58% in 2020 and 59% in 2021) continue to agree that the government should redistribute income from the better off to the less well.
  • In 2021 46% of people in Scotland said they would prefer that tax and spending be increased.
  • In 2021 48% of people in Scotland said they would prefer that tax and spending be kept the same.
  • Between 2019[1] and 2021 a growing proportion of people felt that tax and spending should be kept the same (37% in 2019 vs. 48% in 2021) rather than increased (55% in 2019 vs. 46% in 2021).
  • 40% of people said that they would be prepared to pay more taxes themselves to fund public services, with 21% of people saying that they would accept some cuts to public services rather than paying more taxes themselves.
  • Of those that responded saying they would be prepared to pay more in taxes, the most popular options for these were to be paid through income taxes (63%), a green/environmental tax (33%), consumption taxes like VAT (30%), and local taxes (27%).
  • A small majority of people (52%) believe that the amount of tax that they and their family pay is about right, 28% believe that it is too high, and only 3% feel that it is too low.
  • Public understanding of the tax system, through self-reporting, has decreased over the past year. Respondents indicated a better understanding of the UK tax system (52% said they understood it fairly or very well) in comparison to their understanding of devolved taxes (39% said they understood it fairly or very well). These are decreases from 59% and 44% respectively in the 2020 omnibus survey.
  • In relation to how people find out their information about tax, the most common responses were the UK Government website (22%), the Scottish Government website (11%), and mainstream media (10%). However, 26% of people answered that they do not find any information on tax.

Data

1. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'Government should redistribute income from the better-off to those who are less well off.'
  Scottish Social Attitude Survey 2019 Findings YouGov 2020 Findings YouGov 2021 Findings
Agree strongly 26% 26% 26%
Agree 30% 32% 33%
Total Agree 56% 58% 59%
Neither 24% 26% 27%
Disagree 13% 12% 11%
Disagree strongly 7% 5% 5%
Total Disagree 20% 17% 16%
Figure 1

* 2020 and 2021 – YouGov omnibus survey data (all other data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey)

Figure 1 shows how views on the issue have changed over time. Agreement with the statement was at its highest level when the question was first asked in 1999 then steadily declined until 2005, when for the first time the proportion disagreeing (37%) that the government should redistribute income to the less well-off was higher than the proportion agreeing (31%). Views remained stable up to around 2009 but thereafter diverged with an increasing proportion agreeing that government should redistribute income to the less well off, with an increase of 22 percentage points between 2009 and 2021, from 37% to 59%. This has been matched by a roughly equal decline in the numbers disagreeing with the statement.

2. Suppose the government had to choose between the three options on this card. Which do you think it should choose?
Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2019 Findings YouGov 2020 Findings YouGov 2021 Findings
Reduce taxes and spend less on health, education and social benefits 4% 6% 7%
Keep taxes and spending on these services at the same level as now 37% 46% 48%
Increase taxes and spend more on health, education and social benefits 55% 48% 46%
Figure 2

* 2020 and 2021 – YouGov omnibus survey data (all other data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey)

Figure 2 shows how attitudes to taxation and spending have changed over the past 22 years. Reducing the level of taxation and spending has consistently been the least popular response option with the proportion selecting this option never higher than 1 in 10. However, the proportion believing that the level of taxation and spending should either be increased or kept the same has fluctuated over time.

3. As you may know, the current Covid-19 pandemic has required high levels of government spending. Following the crisis, and when emergency spending comes to an end, which of these statements do you agree with the most in relation to future levels of tax and public spending, compared with their levels before the pandemic began?
YouGov 2021 Findings
I am prepared to pay more taxes myself in order to fund public services 40%
I am prepared for some cuts to public services rather than pay more taxes myself 21%
Neither 25%
Don't know 15%
4. In which of the following areas would you be prepared to pay more tax in? Please tick all that apply.
(Only shown to those who said they would be prepared to pay more taxes to fund public services; N=465)
YouGov 2021 Findings
Income taxes 63%
Green/environmental taxes 33%
Consumption taxes (e.g. VAT) 30%
Local taxes (e.g. Council Tax) 27%
Other taxes* 3%
Don't know 8%

* Popular responses to other taxes included; wealth taxes, land and/or landlord/property taxes, business taxes, and health taxes.

5. On balance, would you say that the amount of tax that you and your family have to pay is too high, too low or about right?
YouGov 2021 Findings
Too high 28%
About right 52%
Too low 3%
Don't know 17%
6. How well, if at all, do you feel you understand the UK tax system and the UK taxes you pay? & 7. And how well, if at all, do you feel you understand tax devolution in Scotland and the devolved taxes you pay?
  Scotland UK
  2020 2021 2020 2021
Understand them very well 7% 7% 9% 10%
Understand them fairly well 37% 32% 50% 42%
Total Understand 44% 39% 59% 52%
Do not understand them that well 33% 35% 26% 31%
Do not understand them at all 17% 18% 10% 10%
Total Do Not Understand 50% 53% 36% 41%
Don't know 6% 8% 5% 7%
8. Which one, if any, of the following is how you find most of your information on tax?
Omnibus Survey 2021 Findings
UK Government website 22%
Scottish Government websites 11%
Mainstream media (newspapers, TV and radio) 10%
Friends and family 7%
Independent websites 6%
My employer 5%
Independent tax professional organisations 3%
Social media 2%
Other 2%
Don't know 6%
Not applicable – I don't find information on tax 26%

Survey Methodology and Caveats

Whilst caution has to be taken when comparing results from different surveys, most methodologies tend to take a representative sample of the Scottish population to ensure a consistent and robust sample of respondents is maintained. Questions 1 and 2 follow the same wording in both the 2019 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and the 2020 YouGov omnibus survey, with questions 6 and 7 following the same wording from the 2020 YouGov omnibus survey. This means that comparing the results from 2021's omnibus survey should be relatively robust.

The YouGov fieldwork was undertaken between:

  • 9 - 13 October 2020, with the survey carried out online. The total sample size was 1,042. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Scotland (aged 18+).
  • 4 - 8 October 2021, with the survey carried out online. The total sample size was 1,051. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Scotland (aged 18+).

Contact

Email: taxdivisionengagement@gov.scot

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