There seems to be a huge debate as to whether universal benefits such as cold weather allowances, free bus passes, child benefits etc. should be means tested. Arguments are usually around the fact that some people who need them won’t claim them whereas there are large numbers of well healed people who shouldn’t be getting them, but means testing everyone would be costly. Is it not possible that we simply continue offering them automatically but set an income level beyond which you will not be entitled to claim them? It would be the responsibility of the individual to opt-out of the benefit they are not entitled to as part of their personal tax assessment. Failure to opt out if you are not entitled would attract a huge and punitive penalty. The odd letter required to Alan Sugar, Philip Green, George Osborne et al, I suggest would be a worthwhile use of the HMRC’s time.
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