Sunak and Hunt mull scrapping inheritance tax to shore up Blue Wall as opening salvo for next general election

15 July 2023, 10:17 | Updated: 15 July 2023, 15:48

Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are considering abolishing inheritance tax to help them win the next election
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are considering abolishing inheritance tax to help them win the next election. Picture: Getty

By Chay Quinn

Rishi Sunak is weighing up a move to scrap inheritance tax as part of the opening salvo for his manifesto ahead of next year's election.

The Times reported that No 10 was discussing whether to make abolishing the levy a commitment to shore up votes in so-called "blue wall" seats in 2025.

Sunak is facing electoral wipe-out as even traditional Tory heartlands in the south of England seem to be within reach for Labour.

Supporters of scrapping the inheritance tax say the move could shore up support in the heartlands and provide a boost for the party's fortunes.

Read More: Rishi Sunak tells unions pay award is Government’s final offer

Rishi Sunak made halving inflation by the end of the year one of the five key ambitions for his leadership, and Jeremy Hunt has signalled this target will be prioritised over tax cuts.

The move could signal a pivot to an election-focussed fiscal strategy from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
The move could signal a pivot to an election-focussed fiscal strategy from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty

The wider economic challenge facing the Chancellor and Prime Minister was illustrated by official figures showing the UK economy contracted in May.

While the party continues to trail Labour in the polls, The Times reported that abolishing inheritance tax was being considered as a manifesto pledge, rather than a policy to be implemented next year.

Read More: Rishi Sunak agrees to give millions of public sector workers pay rise - but how much has everyone been offered?

Sunak's Tories are floundering in the polls as progress stalls on his flagship policy priorities
Sunak's Tories are floundering in the polls as progress stalls on his flagship policy priorities. Picture: Getty

"It's about being an aspirational country. You work hard, play hard and pass on your wealth. It's a live discussion," one source familiar with the discussions told the paper.

The rate of inheritance tax is currently 40% for estates worth more than £325,000, which is only charged on the portion that is above the threshold.

But estates of spouses and civil partners can pass on up to £1 million without any inheritance tax liability.

Consumer Prices Index inflation peaked at 11.1% growth last year and was last reported at 8.7% for May.

Matt Frei on suggestions that the Tories could scrap inheritance tax

Abolishing inheritance tax could cost the Treasury a potential £7 billion a year and would be contingent on that figure falling significantly, the Times reported.

A No 10 source said: "The PM has repeatedly said that he wants to cut taxes for people.

"As Conservatives that is obvious, we want people to keep more of their own money. But the current economic situation means that Government is completely focused on halving inflation - to help people have more in their pockets at the end of each month.

"This kind of future-scoping speculation just isn't on his mind at the moment and requires a different kind of economic environment to the one we are operating in."

LBC's Matt Frei described the move as a "desperate sop to aging Tory voters who are scratching their heads for a reason vote Tory when the Government has already raised so many taxes, and when stubbornly high inflation is already munching away at their wealth".

"There is the question of fairness of course. Critics see it as a pernicious double taxation. Advocates view it as a way of equalising society", Frei added

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