Are you getting richer? Household income bounces back

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Are you getting richer? According to the ONS, you probably are.

In a bit of good news, its recent figures showed median household disposable income up 2.3 per cent last year, accounting for inflation and population changes.

That data arrived in the latest set of ONS figures that allow you to see where you stand among Britain’s richest and poorest in terms of income.

The ONS's latest figures show where people stand on the household income scale, for original income, gross income after cash benefits and disposable income after direct tax, including income tax, NI and council tax.

The ONS’s latest figures show where people stand on the household income scale, for original income, gross income after cash benefits and disposable income after direct tax, including income tax, NI and council tax.

The numbers deal in disposable household income, which the ONS defines as the money households have left from earnings, and cash benefit income including pensions, after direct taxes, such as income tax, NI and council tax.

So, to read your circumstance, you need to know your post tax household income, something you should be able to work our roughly in a few minutes with your payslip, or a tax calculator, and then subtract your council tax.

The median household disposable income in 2017 was £27,300, according to the ONS, up £600 on the year before.

That is a bit above the average annual growth rate of 2.1 per cent over the past 40 years and far higher than the weak 0.7 per cent average since 2008, when the financial crisis hit.

The top fifth of earners are only just back to where they stood in 2008, the bottom fifth are up 15% in terms if disposable income since then

The top fifth of earners are only just back to where they stood in 2008, the bottom fifth are up 15% in terms if disposable income since then

The top fifth of earners are only just back to where they stood in 2008, the bottom fifth are up 15% in terms if disposable income since then

Dig deeper into the figures and it gets interesting.

While they may fly in the face of some rhetoric, the numbers shine a light on how higher earners have taken a bigger hit than lower earners since the crisis.

The welcome finding for the top fifth of earners is that they are finally back to where they were in 2008, with household income now up 0.5 per cent on 2008 – a £200 rise.

That compares to the income of the lowest fifth, which has risen by 15 per cent, or £1,800.

A driver behind that has been how benefits received and tax paid change your income.

Cash benefits and state pensions turn the original household income of £88,800 for the top fifth into £92,000, but more than double the £7,400 household income of the poorest fifth to £15,300.

Tax then goes to work. The average household paid £8,400 in direct tax, or 19.2 per cent of gross income. The poorest fifth paid £1,900, most of which is council tax, taking up 12.7 per cent of gross income, while the top fifth paid £21,400, or 23.2 per cent of gross income.

What about wealth? 

Of course, your income is not what defines how rich you are. 

That comes down to your overall wealth as well – something which in the UK is heavily skewed by property prices and which the ONS Wealth and Assets Survey deals with.

The most recent was released in 2014 and you can find out more on that in our How rich are you? report last year.

 

The ONS data only deals in broad fifths. Zoom in and go further up the tree and the effect of tax is amplified. 

An individual earning £100,000 pays roughly £34,200 in tax and NI, and then council tax. They also have an effective 60 per cent tax rate to look forward to up to £123,000.

These ONS figures are handy for more than just placing yourself on the scale – to either pat yourself on the back or eye up greener grass.

They highlight how despite the arguments of Corbynistas that we must make the richer pay up, the reality is that they already do.

We do need to worry about inequality, we should be concerned by the massive gap between ordinary workers and directors and CEOs, and we should recognise that smaller increases in income make a bigger difference to the poorest households.

But it is worth noting that those higher up the PAYE income scale contribute a lot and have done the heavy lifting since the financial crisis.

The solution to our ills is not simply taxing them more.

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