A Citizen’s Income of any size – even a very small one – would have beneficial effects.
It would reduce marginal deduction rates; if a Citizen’s Income were to replace just some of somebody’s means-tested benefits, then, as earnings rose, means-tested benefits would be withdrawn, but the Citizen’s Income would not be. As the individual or household would be on lower amounts of means-tested benefits, as their earnings rose they would more quickly than before reach the point at which means-tested benefits had all been withdrawn, and from that point onwards no further benefits withdrawal would take place. They would therefore find it easier to earn their way out of poverty.
For people not on means-tested benefits, their Citizen’s Income would replace all or part of their personal tax allowance. For them, the tax system would operate as before. Their marginal deduction rates would not be affected.
So a small Citizen’s Income would have either beneficial effects on households’ marginal deduction rates, or no effects at all.
However small the Citizen’s Income, some households would find that occasional or part-time earnings would for the first time enable them to leave means-tested benefits behind. Fraud and error rates would be reduced; fewer people would be subject to cohabitation tests, work tests, or sanctions; and administrative costs would fall. The cost of administering the small Citizen’s Income would be negligible compared to the saving that would accrue from households leaving means-tested benefits.
A Citizen’s Income of any size would go to every citizen and so would improve social cohesion; it would contribute to a sense of shared and individual citizenship; and it would give to numerous households more flexibility over their employment patterns, and more ability to undertake voluntary community work. For students it would provide a base on which to build with loans, grants, and employment; for the pre-retired it would provide the employment flexibility that would enable them to ease their way into retirement; and for carers it would provide a foundation on which to build earnings and other benefits.
It is sometimes suggested that a small Citizen’s Income would not be worth the trouble. The administration of a Citizen’s Income would be so simple, and the transition so easy, that to establish a small Citizen’s Income would be very little trouble. As we have seen, it would certainly be worth it. As we experienced the advantages offered by our Citizen’s Income, we would want to see it grow; and the fact that everybody would receive it would result in the necessary political pressure.
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101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income offers a short, accessible introduction to the debate on a Citizen’s Income, showing how a universal, unconditional income for every citizen would solve problems facing the UK’s benefits system, tackle poverty, and improve social cohesion and economic efficiency. For anyone new to the subject, or who wants to introduce friends, colleagues or relatives to the idea, 101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income is the book to open up debate around the topic. Drawing on arguments detailed in Money for everyone (Policy Press, 2013), it offers a convincing case for a Citizen’s Income and a much needed resource for all interested in the future of welfare in the UK.