Former education secretary Michael Gove has slammed independent schools for serving the offspring of the world’s global elite, while using their charitable status to avoid paying taxes in the manner of other private firms.
In a column written for The Times, entitled “Put VAT on school fees and soak the rich”, Mr Gove criticises the current system for still considering the education of the children of “plutocrats and oligarchs” to be a charitable activity. He argues that removing the tax advantages of private schools would boost standards in the state sector and raise vital extra funds.
“Private school fees are VAT-exempt. That tax advantage allows the wealthiest in this country, indeed the very wealthiest in the globe, to buy a prestige service that secures their children a permanent positional edge in society at an effective 20 per cent discount,” Mr Gove wrote.
“Are the children of the rich intrinsically more talented and worthy, more gifted and more deserving of celebration than the rest? Of course not.
But our state-subsidised private schools continue to give them every possible advantage,” he added.
Private schools also pay a much reduced rate of business rates tax.
Mr Gove argued that five-star hotels would struggle to offer the state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facilities provided by independent schools, which for some include golf courses, equestrian centres and even recording studios.
In her first major domestic policy announcement as Prime Minister, Theresa May last year said that elite private schools will only be able to maintain charitable status if they set up or sponsor Government-run sister schools.
She also announced that smaller private schools would have to send teachers to take lessons in state schools or be required to accept quotas of pupils who would otherwise be unable to afford private school fees.
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