I’m not sure what I think about cutting child benefit from higher earners. On the one hand, if you’re earning a lot, you probably don’t need child benefit. On the other hand, £44k isn’t actually a huge amount of money, although it is a lot more than the national average, and more than I am earning. Here are some arguments I’ve heard recently in support of the cut:
Argument: Why should the taxes of the low paid pay for the benefits of the rich? Refutation: The rich pay more tax (a lot more tax), so it turns out the low paid aren’t really paying for them.
Argument: If you’re earning £44k and you can’t afford to have children, you shouldn’t have children. Refutation: With child benefit the people earning £44k could afford to. Also, why should someone earning £12k expect to get child benefit? Under that argument, if they can’t afford to have children they shouldn’t either.
Argument: Having children isn’t a right, so getting child benefit shouldn’t be universal. It should only be paid to those who really need it. Refutation: If having children is a choice (and it is), if you’re earning too little you should choose not to have children. If the low paid choose to have children and expect the government to pay for them, why shouldn’t the higher paid?
Argument: You shouldn’t buy that fancy car or nice house – then you could afford to not have the child benefit. Refutation: Even when you’re earning £12k, you’re still earning loads more than the international average. Maybe you shouldn’t have that comparatively nice house either?
Argument: It’s tough but fair. Refutation: How can it possibly be fair to give child benefit to a family earning £70k but not to one earning £44k? (I understand this was the simplest way to do things, but to claim it is fair is disingenuous).
And never mind all those arguments: if you’re earning just under £44k and then do a few hours of overtime you could end up being a couple of thousand pounds worse off. A gradual cut off would be much better. Personally I also think the gradual cut off point should be around £50k and be based on family income rather than individual income.
Also, please note that for some of these refutations I’m slightly playing devil’s advocate.