'UK has fastest rising tax in Europe'

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The Independent Online

Britain's tax burden is rising faster than anywhere else in Europe, it was reported today.

Britain's tax burden is rising faster than anywhere else in Europe, it was reported today.

A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found the tax burden in the UK leapt by more than 6 per cent in the first full year of the Labour Government, according to a report in the Times.

The annual rise was said to be the highest for 16 years - exceeding almost every other developed country.

According to the OECD's preliminary figures, tax revenues as a share of national income rose from 35.4 per cent in 1997 to 37.6 per cent in 1998 - the biggest increase since 1982.

The Tories claimed the figures "knock the Labour tax lie firmly on the head" and disclosed the full extent of Labour's "stealth" taxes.

Shadow chancellor Francis Maude said: "Tony Blair said before the election that he had 'no plans to increase taxes at all'. But in government he has chosen to raise lots of taxes by the back door - taxes on pensions, petrol, marriage and savings to name just a few.

"It took nearly 20 years to build a dynamic and competitive economy in this country. Labour's tax and regulation policies are chipping away at the foundations of that competitive advantage."

The Treasury said the OECD figures did not tally with the Government's Budget Red Book, which showed the tax burden increasing from 36.6 per cent in 1997 to 37.2 per cent in 1998 and set to fall again to 36.6 per cent in the coming year.

"When the Government came to office, it did inherit public finances in very poor shape with a high level of borrowing. One of the first things it did was to get public borrowing down," said a Treasury spokeswoman.

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