Opinion: We demand the political courage to investigate APD

Opinion: We demand the political courage to investigate APD

We have everything to gain from a study into the actual impact of the aviation tax on the wider UK economy, says Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer

The government has steadfastly ignored industry calls to reduce Air Passenger Duty (APD) despite having no evidence to dispute concerns about the impacts of the tax on business and consumers.

This is why we have launched a new campaign during the summer, as part of the alliance for A Fair Tax on Flying, with the aim of mobilising 100,000 people to call on the government – via a petition to their local MP – to commission a review of the economic impact of this tax.

On one level this is an ambitious target and one that will require the support of everyone in the industry.

But on another, if you make consumers aware of the high levels of tax they are already paying and the very real danger of these amounts significantly increasing, you find that many are shocked, surprised and keen to offer support.

This was certainly our experience when we interviewed passengers on the spot at Gatwick Airport when the Fair Tax on Flying alliance first launched.

A 2011 poll by market research company Comres found APD was the third-most hated ‘stealth tax’ among UK adults – only slightly less hated than VAT and fuel duty. 

To make it easy for people to get involved and express their views we have created a website, afairtaxonflying.org, where anyone can email their local MP to register support. This only takes a few moments to do.

Some companies are even considering making this an optional part of the e-booking process for customers.

Successive governments have relied on public ignorance of APD and the historically low profile of the tax to make repeated increases in rates so that we now pay the highest aviation taxes in the world.

The present government has been open in its intention to raise APD even higher. That is why it is essential all of us take action to raise awareness with consumers and keep up the pressure on our political representatives.

The government repeatedly justifies the high APD level through the argument that, in the current harsh economic environment, the country cannot afford to cut taxes.

However, this ignores the substantial damage being caused by APD to the wider economy. 

A Fair Tax on Flying is calling for the Treasury to undertake research to determine the impact of APD on UK holidaymakers, employment and economic growth. 

It’s a simple enough request. The government has nothing to lose and everything to gain from such a report.

Similar reports on the continent have found that high aviation taxes are highly damaging economically and stunt growth. We are confident that a UK report would find the same.

It would take a simple act of common sense and political courage to commission a study and then act on it.


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