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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:15 AM   #1
Nessie
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Man on £80k does not believe he is the top 5% earners

This is headline news on the Metro news site;

https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/22/man-8...ners-11200959/

"A Question Time audience member has refused to believe he is in the top 5% of earners despite raking in £80,000 a year.

The man went on the BBC flagship show and complained about Labourís election policy of planning a 45p rate on earnings over that figure. Jeremy Corbynís party are adamant that their proposed tax hike would only affect the top 5% of earners.

The average UK salary is £29,000 and figures from the Office for National Statistics show that anyone earning more than £75,300 is in the top 5%. The unnamed manís rant has now gone viral with him refusing to believe Labourís statistics, calling them liars. He then goes on to suggest that his salary is not even in Ďthe top 50% of earners.í"

The actual figures are here;

https://www.gov.uk/government/statis...-and-after-tax

The 50% split is at £23,600 (gross in 2016-17). At £36,000 earners are already into the top 75%.

At least there are others in the QT audience who are more clued-up than that man and can be heard correcting him.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:21 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
This is headline news on the Metro news site;

https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/22/man-8...ners-11200959/

"A Question Time audience member has refused to believe he is in the top 5% of earners despite raking in £80,000 a year.

The man went on the BBC flagship show and complained about Labourís election policy of planning a 45p rate on earnings over that figure. Jeremy Corbynís party are adamant that their proposed tax hike would only affect the top 5% of earners.

The average UK salary is £29,000 and figures from the Office for National Statistics show that anyone earning more than £75,300 is in the top 5%. The unnamed manís rant has now gone viral with him refusing to believe Labourís statistics, calling them liars. He then goes on to suggest that his salary is not even in Ďthe top 50% of earners.í"

The actual figures are here;

https://www.gov.uk/government/statis...-and-after-tax

The 50% split is at £23,600 (gross in 2016-17). At £36,000 earners are already into the top 75%.

At least there are others in the QT audience who are more clued-up than that man and can be heard correcting him.
Don't you mean 25%?
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:29 AM   #3
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That is probably a better way to put it, top 25%. The ONS percentiles have £36,000 at 75%. I see the story is on the BBC as well;

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/50517136

There are issues with how the figures are gathered (the BBC has had to correct their article)

"If you adjust that using average earnings figures from the ONS, it's likely that you need to be earning about £81,000 to be in the top 5% of income taxpayers today.
But the figures from HMRC exclude people earning too little to pay income tax, which means that the audience member would have been well into the top 5% of all earners."
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:39 AM   #4
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For most folks "Top X%" generally stands in for "The Rich".

And how rich you feel at a particular income level really does depend on where you live, partly because housing and other living costs vary so wildly.

In the US, you could be living a very good lifestyle at a certain income level in a town in the midwest, or be barely making rent on the same income living in a big city. And I doubt it's that different in the UK.

So while the speaker may be factually incorrect about whether he technically qualifies as the top 5%, politicians are well aware when they sell tax plans about how the term is taken by their audience and what it practically means.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:39 AM   #5
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Clearly he's using a different definition of "earners"; excluding those who merely work with their hands, drive a truck, clerk at a store, etc. They get more than they deserve, unlike bankers, lawyers, etc.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:40 AM   #6
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Rich folks just do not believe that they are rich. 80k is just normal for HIM.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:44 AM   #7
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I would guess that it stems from a lack of appreciation of just how many people are taxpayers in the UK, and how many of them constitute the top 5%. This BBC report from 2017 states that it was 30.3 million, so 5% of that would be around 1,515,000 people earning over £75,300 at the time.

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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Rich folks just do not believe that they are rich. 80k is just normal for HIM.
I don't think I'd characterise 80k a year as rich. Upper middle-class.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:53 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
For most folks "Top X%" generally stands in for "The Rich".

And how rich you feel at a particular income level really does depend on where you live, partly because housing and other living costs vary so wildly.

In the US, you could be living a very good lifestyle at a certain income level in a town in the midwest, or be barely making rent on the same income living in a big city. And I doubt it's that different in the UK.

So while the speaker may be factually incorrect about whether he technically qualifies as the top 5%, politicians are well aware when they sell tax plans about how the term is taken by their audience and what it practically means.
Agreed. I'd imagine 80k in London doesn't get you near as much as it would in the country.

Also, you tend to measure yourself by the company you keep. Among his friends he is not in the top 5% so it is hard for him to imagine that he is in the top 5%.

I know a doctor who has a very high end all cash practice catering to the CEOs. Early on he recognized that while he was very wealthy, he needed to stop comparing himself to his clientele. He was really starting to feel poor even as his income was climbing quite quickly.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:54 AM   #10
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It's telling that he has zero idea how much the actually low paid make. This man has literally no idea of the economic makeup of the country.

He still gets to vote though.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:55 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
It's telling that he has zero idea how much the actually low paid make. This man has literally no idea of the economic makeup of the country.

He still gets to vote though.
As well he should. Ignorance of how much money other people make shouldn't disqualify you from voting for a representative.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:56 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
I don't think I'd characterise 80k a year as rich. Upper middle-class.
Depends on the location. North Dakota, 80k a year could be a pretty good stipend. Silicon Valley, it's not even enough to live in Silicon Valley. Unless you call bunking three to a room in a million-dollar shack in East Palo Alto "living". It's probably a little easier in the UK, but the US is so large and diverse that a single one-size-fits-all income scale for the whole nation is pretty much unworkable.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:57 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
I don't think I'd characterise 80k a year as rich. Upper middle-class.
The guy ranting certainly didn't come across as upper middle class by UK standards (which are not based solely on income).
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Old 22nd November 2019, 10:57 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Depends on the location.
Yes, of course. I was speaking from my limited, personal experience, and of course very roughly translating pounds into CND.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:05 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
Agreed. I'd imagine 80k in London doesn't get you near as much as it would in the country.
The average salary in London is £36k. London is a huge place with a population of 8.9 million. The programme, though, was being broadcast from Bolton in Lancashire, where £80 will go a very long way.

Quote:
Also, you tend to measure yourself by the company you keep. Among his friends he is not in the top 5% so it is hard for him to imagine that he is in the top 5%.
Hard to say, given that he's not been identified, let alone what he does for a living to earn over £80k.

ETA: Metro states the man, "is believed to be an IT consultant." A comment dubs him "King of the Gammons" - a moniker I think should be promoted as much as possible!

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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:08 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
As well he should. Ignorance of how much money other people make shouldn't disqualify you from voting for a representative.
Ignorance of how much money he earns himself is pretty embarrassing, though.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:11 AM   #17
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This seems a little odd to me. In the USA the top 5% salary is some $135,000 per year, or 105,000 British pounds. Are UK salaries lower overall than USA?
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:16 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
This seems a little odd to me. In the USA the top 5% salary is some $135,000 per year, or 105,000 British pounds. Are UK salaries lower overall than USA?
I don't know, though it wouldn't surprise me, but the spread of earnings isn't linear and income inequality is greater in the US than the UK so that may distort comparison of the numbers a bit.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:17 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Ignorance of how much money he earns himself is pretty embarrassing, though.
Is that what happened? I understood that he didn't think that level of income qualified for the top 5%.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:19 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Is that what happened? I understood that he didn't think that level of income qualified for the top 5%.
Which shows he was ignorant of where his salary puts him compared to the country as a whole.

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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:20 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Which shows he was ignorant of where his salary put him compared to the country as a whole.
You said he was ignorant of his own salary. Did you misspeak, there?
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:27 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
I don't know, though it wouldn't surprise me, but the spread of earnings isn't linear and income inequality is greater in the US than the UK so that may distort comparison of the numbers a bit.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ncome_equality

The US and UK seem to have similar income inequality.

Also, multiplying a currency by its exchange rate does not get the whole picture. 1 GBP is 1.28 USD. That doesn't mean that living on 40,000 GBP in the UK is exactly the same as living on $51,200 in the USA. Just 11 years ago that 40,000 GBP was 80,000 USD. The standard of living in neither country has fluctuated by that much that quickly.

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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:28 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
You said he was ignorant of his own salary. Did you misspeak, there?
No, I just didn't think it would need to be explained in such detail.

I get the impression that he went prepared to make that specific point, but has obviously neglected to actually check if what he was going to say was true. So, yeah, ignorant about his salary, and where that puts him in relation to other taxpayers.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:34 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Hard to say, given that he's not been identified, let alone what he does for a living to earn over £80k.

ETA: Metro states the man, "is believed to be an IT consultant." A comment dubs him "King of the Gammons" - a moniker I think should be promoted as much as possible!
I guess they've updated the story, because your link identifies him as Rob Barber.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:44 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Matthew Best View Post
I guess they've updated the story, because your link identifies him as Rob Barber.
Other reports say he is also a professional motorbike rider, is 36 (!), and the woman next to him was his mum. Bless.

Last edited by Information Analyst; 22nd November 2019 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:52 AM   #26
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3 bedroom terrace house in Bolton, £120,000.

3 bedroom terrace house in Kensington
£2,120,000
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:54 AM   #27
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These numbers seem to refer to individual income and not household income. A significant number of people are married/partnered and a fair number of costs don't fluctuate too much when you add a second person.

So a couple making 50k each are not individually both in the top 13th percent, but as a couple they're making 100k and could easily be living a much fancier life than the guy making 80k.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:56 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
These numbers seem to refer to individual income and not household income. A significant number of people are married/partnered and a fair number of costs don't fluctuate too much when you add a second person.

So a couple making 50k each are not individually both in the top 13th percent, but as a couple they're making 100k and could easily be living a much fancier life than the guy making 80k.
True, but personal tax is not affected by how much anyone's partner also earns.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 11:57 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by lobosrul5 View Post
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ncome_equality

The US and UK seem to have similar income inequality.
Seems to depend on which figures you look at there as there's quite a discrepancy between sources. The CIA World Factbook says the top 10% earn 14 times as much as the bottom 10% in the US versus 13.6 times in the UK, but the UN figures say 18.5 US versus 13.8 UK.

Quote:
Also, multiplying a currency by its exchange rate does not get the whole picture. 1 GBP is 1.28 USD. That doesn't mean that living on 40,000 GBP in the UK is exactly the same as living on $51,200 in the USA. Just 11 years ago that 40,000 GBP was 80,000 USD. The standard of living in neither country has fluctuated by that much that quickly.
Very true.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:04 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
3 bedroom terrace house in Bolton, £120,000.

3 bedroom terrace house in Kensington
£2,120,000
I was going to make a similar point.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:10 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
True, but personal tax is not affected by how much anyone's partner also earns.
Do married couples in the UK not have the option file jointly? In the USA filing jointly can save some tax if one person makes significantly more than the other.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:14 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
This seems a little odd to me. In the USA the top 5% salary is some $135,000 per year, or 105,000 British pounds. Are UK salaries lower overall than USA?
One issue that impacts our household is that my wife has a good salary, but since I do mainly contract work, our whole family is on her medical insurance. This reduces her income by about $24,000 per year. I don't think that is an issue in the UK.

So, were she to be making $135k in the US, her taxable income would be more like $111k, or about £86k.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:19 PM   #33
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The way I see it, there's basically three broad categories of personal wealth: Poor, middle class, and rich.

If you're poor, you're poor anywhere. You're poor in London. You're poor in Bolton. There's nowhere you can go, that you'll be able to climb higher than the second level of Maslow's hierarchy, without government assistance or charitable aid.

If you're rich, you're rich everywhere. Even in London, you have enough wealth to live life at the top of Maslow's hierarchy.

If you're middle class, you're rich or poor depending on where you are. In London, where the cost of living is high, your fat paycheck thins out pretty fast, just paying the rent. In Bolton, that same paycheck has enough left over to put a bit of decadence in your lifestyle.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:25 PM   #34
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Average weekly earnings by region

https://researchbriefings.parliament...mmary/CBP-8456

London £699
SE £636
Scotland £578
NW £556
NI £535
Wales £541
NE £531

The average in London is £36,348 a year, so £80k is over double that. That guy is very well off and way above average no matter where he is from. If it is Bolton, where the QT took place, he is where the average weekly wage is £556 or just under £29k.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:36 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
True, but personal tax is not affected by how much anyone's partner also earns.
My position is that while the dude is technically incorrect, what he's pointing to may be largely a difference between what voters hear when a politician says "top 5%" and what actually happens.

While the number may refer to individual earnings, Most voters probably think of it as a proxy for purchasing power and lifestyle. After all, the whole justification for raising taxes on higher earners is the notion that they can afford it and still be fine.

When there's a distance between how voters parse 5% (even if they're factually wrong) and how politicians mean it, it's a bit of a bait and switch. If politicians referred to a household income level rather than an individual salary, they'd likely be closer to the same page.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 12:38 PM   #36
lionking
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Salary alone is not much of an indicator of anything much. I’m on a middling salary of $A80k. But I have no mortgage, a company car, pay little tax (salary sacrifice) and even get a part government pension of $100 a week (wife gets the same, wonderful place Oz).

One of my sons earns more than twice my salary (don’t know exactly how much), is on the top tax bracket, runs his own car and pays over $6k a month off his mortgage.

At this stage I’m comfortably better off than him, but he will catch up and overtake me all too soon.

I consider myself (relatively) rich, and my son not so.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 01:06 PM   #37
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https://www.theguardian.com/money/20...e-australia-us

"A comparison of personal tax rates across Europe, Australia and the US by Guardian Money reveals how average earners in Britain on salaries of £25,000, or “middle-class” individuals on £40,000, enjoy among the lowest personal tax rates of the advanced countries, while high earners on £100,000 see less of their income taken in tax than almost anywhere else in Europe."

Very wealthy from Bolton is very wealthy in all sorts of measures. The UK ranks 23rd in average earnings, but with his £80k (or $102,650) he would come 4th behind Monaco, Liechtenstein and Bermuda.

https://www.worlddata.info/average-income.php
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Old 22nd November 2019, 01:39 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
The guy ranting certainly didn't come across as upper middle class by UK standards (which are not based solely on income).
I've heard he's been identified as an IT company director. Since David Cameron declared "we're all middle class now" it covers pretty much anyone who doesn't dig ditches or have a title.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 01:39 PM   #39
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Well in that case he's just a prat.
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Old 22nd November 2019, 01:41 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Is that what happened? I understood that he didn't think that level of income qualified for the top 5%.
Actually at one point he claimed not to be in the top 50%...
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