EU Temporary Migrant Workers To Lose Their Tax-Free Personal Allowance Entitlement
Up to now, most temporary workers from the EU (including many labourers, agricultural workers, cleaners, catering and hospitality staff) could reclaim the tax they paid in the UK once they returned to their own country. Not anymore, as the proposed changes mean that they will now be set to pay 20% income tax on every pound they earn in Britain – in effect paying more tax than their UK counterparts. The wanted effect is to discourage seasonal migrant workers flooding the UK job market while being tax exempt, which is seen by many as an injustice to British workers who have to pay income tax all year round.
Under a raft of proposals from the Treasury, other affected groups to be stripped off their personal allowance concern British expats receiving income from rental properties they own in the UK and those receiving government pensions (please read my previous blog for more details).
While many observers and commentators applauded these measures, deemed to act both as a deterrent to EU immigration and a fair move towards British taxpayers, their enthusiasm strikes me as a little bit short-sighted. One thing Mr Osborne might not have fully weighed up is the potential repercussions his proposals will have on very specific UK sectors very dependent on EU migrant manpower, like the hospitality and fruit-picking industries, to name a few.
Next time the same anti-immigration pundits stay in a hotel within these shores, I wonder if they‘ll muster the courage to look in the eye of the person who serves them breakfast or cleans their room. Few Brits tend to occupy the position of bottom-rung housekeepers in hotels, actually. Seasonal foreign workers from the EU with limited grasp of English – many from Eastern Europe – make up the bulk of many British hotel staff, including most respected chains and top-notch private establishments. I wonder why that is… Is it maybe because temporary EU migrants, unlike their British counterparts, accept to work long unsociable hours and perform back-breaking chores for staggeringly low pay without complaining (or the means to complain, even)…? Or is it maybe because most Britons themselves would not sign up for the same harsh working conditions so HR departments have to resort to sourcing out staff from the migrant population and who prove easier to pick and drop at short notice? Could it also be a little-publicised (and scandalous) case of social exploitation nurtured by opportunistic businesses only too happy to profit from the cheapest labour source available…?
God help us if these measures succeed in halting temporary EU immigration to the UK. Would that mean even higher prices for hotel rooms and fruit shopping due to staff shortages or the increased cost of hiring – or poorer service…?
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