Today’s English listening mp3 lesson is going to talk about the English language used when talking about taxes and how people in the UK are discussing who is and how we are going to pay for the enormous costs associated with dealing with the pandemic and the impact of shutting the UK economy down.
UK has the 5th largest economy
in the world in 2020/21. In 2018, the UK government thought it would spend around £842 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money for 2019-2020. The government expected to borrow around £55 billion and yet here we are in 2021 and the total amount borrowed so far is £394 billion pounds, wow!
UK Taxes in 2020 will be £57 billion lower, and spending £281 billion higher if that was my household budget, I’d be anxious.
It looks like the UK has had to over spend by
£300+ billion in a single year, and the country is already talking about how are we going to pay for this?
It was way back in 1789 that Franklin said you can only be certain of two things in life, death and taxes. Government comes at a cost, a significant cost, and the everyday decisions we hear on the TV or radio almost always result in someone having to pay more in taxes. The pandemic is no different.
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
⭐ Benjamin Franklin
Dire Vaccine Billion Wealth Simplistic Constitution Permanency
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So it’s the start of January and we are still in pandemic. Brexit is complete – we’ve left the European Union. And it’s time for a reassessment of where we are going, what direction we are heading in? Many people are hopeful that the dire situation – ‘dire’, DI-R-E means bad – the ‘dire’ situation in the UK and around the world will be improving over the next couple of months.
We’ve got the even nastier virus that transmits more easily, going round in most of the UK, but also the vaccine roll out continues. So there’s good and there’s bad news in the situation. And although I think we’ll be locked down for the months of January and February (why would they not? Those are most people’s least favourite months anyway, so there’s a sense that we’re not really missing that much!) - despite this, most people feel hopeful because of the vaccine programme.
I say ‘most people’. There are some who’re not convinced that it’s good. Either because they suspect the vaccine may not work or that the benefit will not last very long – and you’ll need to be re-vaccinated. Or they think that there may be too many people with a bad reaction to it.
But most people are feeling more positive, I think, about 2021. However, one of the things which faces us in January – apart from tax returns and the bill for Christmas, which for us is not too bad this year, as we weren’t able to do very much! One of the things which faces us is the question of how to pay for the pandemic?
How do we plan to pay for all those government schemes to help people out with money, to support businesses which couldn’t operate financially? The UK government, in line with many other governments around the world has spent a great deal and government debt, that’s D-E-B-T has grown enormously.
‘Debt’ means ‘how much you owe’, how much you have to pay back. If you use a credit card, then your ‘debt’ is how much you owe on your card. And the UK government has a big debt. And it’s estimated that the UK has spent around £280 billion so far. That’s a big hole in the public finances!
So one of the things which you read in the newspapers at the moment and which you hear people say is ‘Tax the rich’. This is offered as a solution to the current problem. ‘The rich’ means ‘the people with lots of money’ – and who can therefore afford to pay some more tax. And ‘tax’, T-A-X is the money that the government take from everybody.
A photograph of colourful houses in Notting Hill, UK all valued at more than £1 million. As we discuss taxes in the UK in this English listening lesson.
Statistics show us that over the last few years, the rich have been getting richer and the poor – that’s the people without any money - have been getting poorer. So this ‘tax the rich’ is seen by many as a good idea.
It’s certainly better than taking more tax from the poor. So again, the poor, ‘P-O-O-R’ means those people in the opposite situation to the rich – those people who have very little money. The argument says that the people who are rich have been less affected by the pandemic and the people who have least have been most affected.
Many of the people in the middle have still been able to carry out their work online. It’s the people who generally have to go in to work, who have to be physically present to do their jobs, who’ve been most badly affected by the pandemic. If you’re a hairdresser or you work in a shop or a restaurant or if you’re a painter and decorator – you decorate people’s houses for a living – then you will have had no work and no money coming in. And of course, there are those people who’ve simply lost their jobs and have no work at all.
So of course, taxing the rich is better than taxing more those people who don’t have much in the first place. But who are the rich? How do we define that? Of course, who is rich and who is poor is what we call ‘relative’ anyway – depends where you stand how you see it. What one person would count as ‘rich’ differs from what another person would think of as ‘rich’. The UK is a rich country comparatively. So an organisation in the UK called ‘The Wealth Tax Commission’ - they’ve been looking into this.
Their version of ‘tax the rich to pay for the pandemic’ often includes the figure of £1M. So households which are worth more than £1M should be taxed 1% of their wealth each year, for five years. And this would raise £260 billion, supposedly – so it would go a long way to filling that hole in the public finances. It’s a bit simplistic perhaps – ‘simplistic’ means ‘overly simple’ meaning that probably the situation is more complicated.
I think that one of the problems is that rich people have far more flexibility in where they put their money – so such a tax may cause money to just simply ‘move out of the country’ and be put elsewhere, so that the action would generate less money than expected.
And also there may be people, especially in places like London, who have owned property for a long time – or whose house has been passed down from parent to child – and who therefore may fall into the category of ‘the rich’ because of the value of their house in London being so ridiculously high.
It may not actually mean they’re rich – they’ve just got property which has increased in value and they’ve held onto it for a long time. Of course, you could say ‘You have a property worth over £1M – you should sell it to pay the tax’. But maybe that’s difficult if the person is old and they’ve been there a long time and they’re attached to their property.
It’s a simplistic idea perhaps, but one which has lots of people supporting it, and which even enjoys some support amongst those people who are worth more than £1M. It’s seen as something which is less likely to do further damage to the economy. Whereas if you raise tax on goods, so called VAT or if you take more tax on people’s earnings, that’s income tax – this tends to put more of a dent in the economy. And that’s the last thing that we need at the moment.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens, won’t it? And to see what other countries, all around the world do to raise money to cover the debts incurred as a result of the virus. Use this podcast to practise your English.
Listen a couple of times to ensure that you understand all the words, looking up any new words you haven’t heard before. Then listen a few more times, once you know all the words and you understand all the podcast. Then you’ll have that lovely experience of being able to understand and think, completely in English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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