Brown's 'death tax' denied

'Death tax' proposal could help pay for expanded social care
'Death tax' proposal could help pay for expanded social care

By Alex Stevenson

Plans to impose a £20,000 inheritance tax to help finance improved social care provision have been denied by the government.

The Guardian newspaper had reported the levy was being considered as a replacement for the current system, whereby older people are forced to sell their homes to pay for care.

Health secretary Andy Burnham told journalists this lunchtime the government was not considering the radical step as "the right way to go".

"The Guardian's story suggests a £20,000 flat levy and I am not currently considering that as a lead option for reform," he said.

"That figure was used in the green paper last year, but I do not believe a flat levy of that kind would be the right way to go. So I can say to you very categorically today that is not what we are considering."

The Conservatives, whose inheritance tax proposals have long been held up by the prime minister as an example of their commitment to the well-off, attacked the proposals nonetheless.

"Gordon Brown needs to come clean with the public and say how he will fund his new national care service," shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said.

"Behind closed doors ministers are secretly planning a death tax of up to £20,000 per head which would be levied on the estates of grieving families."

Gordon Brown unveiled his plans for improving social care during his party conference speech last autumn.

They are currently going through parliament in the form of the personal care at home bill, which is expected to affect only those with high levels of need.

This is estimated at around 250,000 of the 500,000 elderly people receiving care in their home. It would not affect any of those already in care homes.

Concerns exist that the government may struggle to fund this commitment as it currently stands, however.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services says ministers have based their calculations on social care costing £103 per person per week. It estimates the real price is around £200.

"That's why Labour are also planning to take away cash disability benefits from the elderly and cut money from the NHS," Mr Lansley added.

"It is another top-down, bureaucratic, costly plan from Labour for which every one of us would end up paying the price."


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