UK Pandemic Fuelled By Alcohol & Cigarettes

New analysis reveals that the UK paid more tax on alcohol and cigarettes than stamp duty during the pandemic.


More Tax for Alcohol and Tobacco than Stamp Duty

Analysis by tax refund experts, RIFT Tax Refunds, has revealed how the pandemic has influenced tax growth across the UK, as HMRC received more from Alcohol and Tobacco duties during the 2020/21 tax year than they did for stamp duty.

RIFT Tax Refunds analysed data on the total receipts received by HMRC during the first full pandemic tax year of 2020 to 2021, which shows a -7.7% annual drop in tax paid compared to the previous year. The annual total of £584.5m was the lowest seen since the 2015/16 tax year, although it remained some 29% higher than a decade earlier.

Income Tax accounted for 33.1% of these total receipts, up 0.3% annually, with the amount paid from those in full-time employment increasing 1.2% year on year, while Self-Assessment receipts fell by -2.6% annually.

National Insurance accounted for a quarter of all receipts received by HMRC, with VAT (17.4%) and Corporation Tax (8.7%) also accounting for a large proportion of tax paid. Although the latter did see annual declines of -21.7% and -17.3% respectively.

These annual declines in Self Assessment, VAT and Corporation Tax are no doubt due to a combination of government measures to help businesses survive what was an extremely uncertain time, as well as the drop in earnings suffered by many. But how else has the pandemic shaped the tax landscape?


Further Pandemic Influence

The influence of the pandemic is also clear across a number of other areas. With widespread travel bans only easing in recent months, it’s no surprise that HMRC saw a -83.9% annual decline in receipts received via Air Passenger Duty, falling to a total of just £585m in 2020/21.

The choice to suspend Stamp Duty Land Tax on property purchases from July 2020 saw the level of stamp duty tax paid drop by a quarter when compared to the previous year, accounting for just 1.5% of total receipts received by HMRC, although the overall total still sat at £8.7m.

In fact, despite a pandemic property market boom pushing house prices up by 10.8%, Alcohol and Tobacco Duties both accounted for a higher proportion of total tax paid compared to Stamp Duty, and also saw a year on year uplift of +2.3% and +13.2% respectively. During 2020/21, we paid £12.1m in Alcohol Duty and almost £10m in Tobacco Duty.

There was a 13.3% annual increase in tax receipts received from Capital Gains Tax, while another unfortunate consequence of Covid has also been a 4% annual jump in Inheritance Tax receipts received – with the total paid reaching over £5.3m.

One silver lining was the empathetic approach taken by HMRC during this tough time, with receipts as a result of Penalties falling -30.6% on the previous year, although they still dished out £445m worth of penalties.

CEO of RIFT Tax Refunds, Bradley Post, commented:

“We can fully appreciate that not everyone finds the subject of tax particularly exciting and for many it can be a cause of stress and confusion, particularly those required to complete a Self-Assessment.

However, when analysing the tax we pay as a nation it can provide some fascinating insight, not only when it comes to economic health, but also how we’re living and our lifestyle trends.

The notable decline in tax paid for Air Passenger Duties demonstrates the torrid time that was endured by the travel sector as a result of travel restrictions, while the impact of the stamp duty holiday is also clear with receipts falling by a quarter.”