Remember that this tax will only affect those whose estates exceed £285,000 - well above the UK average house price and actually only a problem for around 6% of the population. Even then, it only kicks in at the 40% rate on the value of the estate above that.
Byers reckons that it is a 'penalty on hard work, thrift and enterprise.' Nonsense - I defy anyone to show me someone who held back on their innate work ethic or their imaginative entrepreneurialism for fear of a tax that will affect their heirs and successors. It doesn't happen. Obviously, with Tony's new multi-million pound London house and a planned career in after-dinner speaking while his wife takes her seat on the High Court bench, IHT will bother the Dear Leader, but it isn't a vote-winner for most of the population outside the Notting Hill set - and certainly not on Tyneside, where Stephen currently has a constituency.
The Telegraph rumbles on - 'thousands of hard-working families face huge bills just to keep the family home after a relative has died.' Eh? Transfers between civil partners or married couples are free of IHT. These 'hard-working families' (an over-worked term, if ever there was one) presumably have a home of their own, so are merely going to inherit the family home of one of their own parents. Even if we assume that there are a few of them still living at home with mum and dad, they will be mortgage-free on a property worth over £285,000 and probably able to mortgage the house to cover the tax bill. There really can't be many who would find that a problem and I struggle to find sympathy for the tiny number who would be left struggling to find a new home with only a third of a million quid or so to their name. I refer you to Fisking Central for some sound observations and there's also a decent post on Forceful and Moderate about the issue.
Ultimately, IHT is a fair tax - it doesn't genuinely tax income that has already had tax paid, as the income is a gain to somebody who never earned it - the heir. In any case, as a number of commentators have pointed out, we already pay many repeat taxes - VAT is a classic one. Scrapping it would be a sop to the very rich in society and would remove £3 billion from the tax system that could only be replaced by taxing the rest of us even more.
Gordon isn't taking it lightly and he responded
'A source close to Gordon Brown added: "I don't think Stephen Byers actually believes a word of this nonsense. He never said anything of the sort when he was in Government.'