We have been asked the question: Would it be possible to implement a Citizen’s Basic Income now for the UK?
Our previous post on this subject laid out the difficulties. But having been asked the question, here is a tentative outline plan for implementing a Citizen’s Basic Income in as short a time as possible so as to serve the population’s need for financial security in the midst of the current crisis.
- Emergency single paragraph legislation to permit the Government to combine existing central government departments’ and local authorities’ databases, including names, dates of birth, identifying numbers such as NI, NHS, passport and driving licence numbers, and bank account details, and to add information from banks, building societies and credit agencies; and a bill to permit the payment of a Basic Income (see the ‘Fair Allowance’ illustrative draft legislation put together by a Citizen’s Basic Income Trust working group). Normally such legislation would take a considerable period of time, but under the current circumstances it might be possible to do it quickly.
- A number of databases contain household member names, contact details, and bank account details: Council Tax payers; Child Benefit recipients; Universal Credit and legacy benefit claimants; HMRC records (minimal bank account coverage probably).
- The information in these databases could be combined into a single database which would then contain partial information on the individuals in each household, and at least one bank account in most households.
- The electoral registers should enable the individuals in each household to be identified, enabling further information to be added; driving licence and passport records should also be able to assist with that.
- NI and NHS numbers would provide useful checks; and if legislation gives permission for bank, building society and credit agency records to be included, then a lot more individuals, along with their bank account details, could be identified and verified.
- Every household could then be asked to verify the information gathered: in the vast majority of cases this could be done online.
- Basic Incomes could then begin to be paid to every individual between the ages of 20 and the state retirement age (ensuring that anyone for whom Child Benefit is being received is excluded, along with anyone receiving a state pension). No calculations would be required. Every individual on the database would be sent the same amount of money, every week or every month.
- Where only one bank account in a household of two or more adults can be identified, the Basic Incomes would have to be paid into that, and households for whom that was happening would then have the option of sending details of additional individual bank accounts, enabling payments to be made to individuals.
- It would be a simple matter to recoup some of the funding required by reducing the Income Tax Personal Allowance, ensuring of course that the additional Income Tax that would then be collected would always be less than the Citizen’s Basic Income being paid.
That is a first attempt at what would be a complex problem to solve: but if the Government had the will to do it, government departments, local authorities and the banks and credit agencies all played their part, and competent systems analysts were employed to put together the algorithms required, then it would be possible to get a Citizen’s Basic Income into payment quite quickly.
No doubt there are problems with the tentative outline above, and experts on government databases would need to identify and solve them: but once those gaps were filled, and the plan carried out, it would be possible to ‘Get Basic Income Done’.