The government’s expected 1.2 per cent hike in national insurance will cost businesses up to £3.5bn to match employee contributions, economists have warned.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that if £10bn of additional revenue is generated by the NI tax increase, businesses will need to find between £3bn and £3.5bn extra from April.
The self-employed will also face the NI rise, though they already make lower contributions.
Professor Len Shackleton, research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, described employer national insurance as a “crude payroll tax” which discourages lower-paid employment and is then passed onto workers in the form of lower pay.
Craig Beaumont of the Federation of Small Businesses told the Daily Telegraph: “Hiking the jobs tax on employees and employers would make it more expensive for businesses to create and maintain jobs.”
Mike Cherry, chairman of the FSB, told the newspaper: “This regressive levy is yet another outgoing for small businesses and sole traders to worry about against a backdrop of spiralling input prices, supply chain disruption, a deepening late payment crisis, rent arrears, rates bills returning, skills shortages and emergency loan repayments.”
Helen Miller, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, added that worker’s wages could ultimately go down when employers pass on extra costs.
Miller said: “Over time, the fact that employers have to pay higher employer NICs means they won’t be able to offer as much in terms of wage increases. Therefore, eventually it will be employees who are bearing the cost of employer NICs.”
An announcement on the Government’s thinking is expected tomorrow (Tuesday) with prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid having agreed to raise national insurance by about 1.25 per cent.
Tory MPs are worried that raising national insurance will put the burden for elderly care on the young and those of working age. When you hit state pension age, you stop paying national insurance, even if you keep working.
Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff-turned-nemesis Dominic Cummings said: “Why should young people on average and below-average incomes lose disposable income to pay for another subsidy for the older middle classes? This is bad policy and bad politics.”
Despite howls of outrage from Conservative backbenchers over the Government breaking an election manifesto promise not to raise NI, Johnson is banking on public support. Two thirds of the public said they would support national insurance going up from 12 per cent to 13 per cent for the NHS and social care, YouGov found.
Increasing national insurance would be more popular than putting up income tax, the poll suggested.
Only fifty-one per cent backed a 1p increase in income tax for increased health spending.