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Why Was a Wealth Tax for the UK Abandoned? Lessons for the Policy Process and Tackling Wealth Inequality


The distribution of wealth is widening in many countries and with it the growing importance of inherited wealth. In 1974, a Labour Government came to power in the United Kingdom committed to introducing an annual wealth tax. It left office without doing so. Using the official archives of the time and those of a key advisor this paper traces both the origins of the policy and its fate at the hands of the civil service. It explores two related questions. What does this experience tell us about the role of the civil service in the policy process in the UK and what lessons might be learned by those wishing to tackle the issue of widening wealth disparities today?

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Hugh Dalton Papers British Library of Political Science (BLPS). Kings College Cambridge, Kaldor Papers, NK/11/1–17 ‘Labour Party Advice’. The National Archives (TNA), Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, Inland Revenue (IR) and Treasury (T) files 1974–1979 under the heading ‘Wealth Tax’ or ‘Introduction of a Wealth Tax’. Most files contain un-numbered papers in date order, some are numbered and in those cases these are added to the file reference.

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Journal of Social Policy
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