The Taxman giveth and the taxman taketh away..

Earlier this week there was a story that was taken up by the newspapers about the number of households in the country that take more out of the tax system than pay in.

Obviously on the back of such shows as Benefits Street and the obsession by some that the country is being brought to its knees by benefit scroungers it makes for a story the papers are keen to use – and you can see that the Daily Telegraph jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly.

However the figures, which were released by the Office of National Statistics, are not quite what they appear when subjected to a bit more scrutiny.

Included in the calculation of what people get from the state are not only the usual suspects such as child benefit, housing benefit and all manner of out-of-work payments, but also an allowance for using the health service and schools.

Indeed if you drill down into the figures the ONS calculates the annual value of the NHS to the average household as being £4,066 and the education system as £2,520.

To me it is at this point when I wonder if the calculation is worth doing. Why not calculate the value to the average household of being protected by a nuclear submarine patrolling the Atlantic or the benefit entailed in making sure mass murderers are kept locked up? The people at FullFact did a reasonable job (probably better than I have done) of explaining the way it has been reported and how that differs from the actual stats.

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