Published March 2005
This paper represents the results of a small-scale qualitative study, exploring public perceptions of the redistributive effects of taxation and public spending in the UK. Redistribution is not at the top of people’s minds when they consider these issues and it is a complex subject on which they have thought little. People appear to apply separate principles of ‘fairness’ and ‘mutuality’ to the structures of taxation and public spending. Fairness in taxation may involve more progressivity than the current system, and those with low incomes may need more help. The support this implies for the redistributive impact of government does not appear to be primarily motivated by concerns about making incomes more equal, but rather the outcome of belief in a system in which everyone can get help when they need it, and everyone contributes according to their means.