Watchdog criticises ‘misleading’ tax cut claims made by Treasury ministers

Two Treasury ministers’ claims about the level of personal taxation have been criticised by the official statistics watchdog.

Sir Robert Chote, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said the public could have been “misled – or at least confused” by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott’s statement.

She told the Commons in November that “taxes for the average worker will have gone down by £1,000 since 2010”.

Another minister, Economic Secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami, was also criticised for saying in January that “taxes are coming down”.

In a letter published on Monday, Sir Robert continued: “I suspect that the public are more likely to have been misled – or at least confused – by Ms Trott’s statements, both of which would probably suggest to a typical listener that the average worker’s overall tax bill has fallen in cash terms.”

The Treasury’s £1,000 figure is based on a counterfactual estimate of the average tax bill if personal thresholds had increased in line with inflation since 2010.

But thresholds have been frozen, pulling many many people into higher tax brackets.

Darren Jones, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “The UK Statistics Authority’s verdict on Laura Trott’s comments are damning.

“She is found to have potentially misled the public or used confusing statements when talking about the Tories’ record on tax.

“The truth is working people don’t need to listen to Government ministers to know they are paying more in tax. They just need to look at their payslips.

“Laura Trott should come to the Commons and correct the record. The least Rishi Sunak can do when hammering working people with the highest tax burden in 70 years is make sure his team tell it straight.”

Sir Robert’s rebuke came in a letter to Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle in response to her concerns about the comments.

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