Howard promises holiday to mark 'tax freedom'

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A new bank holiday would mark the day in the year on which people had paid their dues to the taxman, under a proposal unveiled by Conservative leader Michael Howard.

In his first party political broadcast as Tory leader, Mr Howard argued that introducing a Tax Freedom Day ­ currently calculated each year by the Adam Smith Institute think tank ­ would make it easier for voters to comprehend the true size of the tax burden, and note how it changes.

In the broadcast, to be screened on BBC1 tonight at 10.30pm, Mr Howard tells viewers: "You know our public services aren't as good as they should be. Yet, because of Labour's spin and stealth taxes, people don't realise just how much tax they are paying."

He continued: "The principle is simple. The more tax the Government takes, the later in the year Tax Freedom Day falls. Tax Freedom Day is quite simply the day you stop working for the taxman, and start working for yourself.

"The next Conservative government will make Tax Freedom Day a bank holiday, to help you decide whether you get genuine value for money, in return for the tax you pay."

Mr Howard accused the Labour Government of introducing a total of 60 tax rises, which together had pushed back Tax Freedom Day from 27 May in 1997, the year in which it came to power, to 9 June by 2005. But he said that the increases had produced little effect, citing a million people on NHS waiting lists, one in three children leaving primary school without being able to read, write and count properly, and rising crime.

Aides to the Tory leader stressed that the party was not making any promises about cutting taxes, and that the object of the exercise was to bring greater "openness and transparency" to taxation.