Taxpayers' Alliance

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The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) is a right-wing single-issue think tank and lobbying group advocating "lower taxes and reformed public services". On 19 September 2007, the Hayek Society, a LSE right-wing group, circulated a job description to its members for internships at TPA.

In a March 2009 presentation, TPA Chief Executive Matthew Elliott and Tim Montgomerie described the TPA as part of the infrastructure of the conservative movement in Britain.[1]

The TaxPayers' Alliance has strong connections with the Conservative Party. All of the TPA founders were affiliated with the Conservatives' prior to setting up the TPA and both the TPA and the Conservative Party share many of the same key financial backers. Part of the TPA's work can be understood to be an extension of the Eurosceptic element within and on the right of the Conservative Party; there are also links between the TPA and UKIP. The TPA also share close connections with the Stockholm Network and a host of other free market think tanks many of who are also part of Montgomerie and Elliott's 'conservative movement'.


Taxpayers' Alliance Ltd Company Details

The TaxPayers' Alliance was set up as a limited company[2] in 2003 by Matthew Elliott, a 25-year-old political researcher for Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope. According to the Guardian Elliott had been impressed by Republican grassroots campaigns to cut tax and spending he had seen in America – particularly the work of Grover Norquist who campaigned against Hillary Clinton's healthcare plans during Bill Clinton's presidency. He argued:

'Up until that point Britain didn't need a taxpayers' group because we had the Conservatives, but then they stopped talking about it and so I saw a niche,'.

The co-founders of the Taxpayers alliance were Elliot’s wife Florence Heath a who was a Conservative Party activist[3] while at University , she now works as a geologist for petroleum giant Shell[4]. Her father Alexander Heath is also a director of the TPA, his appointment led to controversy when it emerged that he does not pay any UK Tax. The other founding member is former Conservative Party member for Westminster city council Andrew Allum.[5][6]

The conservative connections of the Taxpayers' Alliance founders

Funding & Transparency

The Taxpayers’ Alliance argue for greater transparency from government bodies[7] However when asked for a full list of funders and donors, Emma Bennett responded on their behalf:

The TPA has is [SIC] entirely funded by private, individual donations from many of the nearly 60,000 supporters we have across the UK. We have never received, nor will receive, funding from the taxpayers' purse. Our latest accounts are available on the Companies House website.[8]

The 60,000 members Bennett refers to are people who have signed up to an online mailing list on the Taxpayers’ Alliance website.[9] However the bulk of their funding comes from 'wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party'. According to an investigation by the Guardian:

Sixty per cent of the donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5,000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies. Tony Gallagher, owner of Gallagher UK, a property company that gave the Conservatives £250,000 in 2007, is a member of the MIC, as is Christopher Kelly who owns the international haulage firm Keltruck, and Robert Edmiston who owns IM Group, a large car importer'.[10]
Barbour Index promotional picture from 1967[11]

Other businessmen in the MIC who fund the Taxpayers’ Alliance include JCB tycoon Anthony Bamford who has close links to the Conservative Party and visited India with David Cameron in 2006.[12][13] Taxpayers’ Alliance funding rose from £64,457 in 2005 to more than £1 million in 2009.[14] Since the TPA has received such a large spike in funding they have begun publishing only abbreviated accounts which withhold income and expenditure.[15]

A large amount of the Taxpayers’ Alliance income comes from a research charity entitled the Politics and Economics Research Trust, formerly known as the Taxpayers’ Alliance Research Trust. The main contact given for this wing of the Taxpayers’ Alliance is multimillionaire Patrick Barbour who sold his Barbour Index business in 1999 for £22 million.[16]

According to the Charity Commission the Politics and Economics Research Trust spent £564,947 between 2007 and 2009.[17] Of this amount £544,000 was spent on research grants and 90% (£505,000) of this was given to the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The arrangement prompted complaints to the Charity Commission from the Guardian newspaper and Labour Party MP John Prescott.[18][19] Since 2011, when the resultant Charity Commission report was published, the Trust has continued to pump money into the Alliance. Between 2008 and 2012, the Trust donated a total of £1.5 million.[20]

According to campaign group The Other Taxpayers Alliance, the Companies House information held on the TPA is sparse, they claim that:

It’s simply not true that all political organisations are secretive about their funding. Most declare their income and expenditure, and some give a break-down of income sources, including donors. The TPA does neither. It publishes abbreviated accounts which means income and expenditure are withheld. The last time it published full accounts was in 2006, when it recorded an income of £130,000. But the current organisation has ten full-time staff across two offices, which suggests either its income has jumped substantially or it is loaded with debt.[21]

Tax Controversy

In 2009 The Guardian reported that TPA director Andrew Heath does not pay any UK tax.[22] In 2009 The Guardian reported that Heath does not pay any UK tax.[23].

Responding to the controversy Matthew Elliott, argued that:

I'm not sure how big a revelation the first point is – the information is openly available from our Companies House records – but I can understand why it may look unusual that we have a French-taxpaying, British citizen as a non-executive director. The reason is that when we set up the Taxpayers' Alliance almost six years ago, we were a group of young twentysomething activists who wanted to make a difference for taxpayers in the UK. Like many young people setting up a new venture, we had plenty of enthusiasm but felt we needed an older, wiser person to give us advice and guide us in setting up a solid, stable organisation. For this reason, we asked Alexander Heath, a retired teacher, who later became my father-in-law, to become a non-executive director of the TPA. Like the other non-executive directors, Heath has never given or taken a penny from the TPA – I am the only director who receives a salary and expenses.[24]

Political Connections & Network

Sunder Katwala of the Fabien Society argued that the Taxpayers’ Alliance were both partisan ‘small c’ conservatives and supporters of the Conservative Party , Matthew Elliott accused him of not being able to understand capital letters and denied links to the Conservative Party arguing that:

The phrase “conservative movement” or “conservative” is used a lot to describe the broad, centre-right, movement in the United Kingdom. Of course, some people think that doesn’t reflect the libertarian strand in the British centre right properly, but for the lack of a better term “conservative” works’.

However all of the founding members of the Taxpayers’ Alliance have links to the Conservative Party.[25][26][27]

Despite these links Elliott denies any political party partisanship stating:

Yes, we believe in lower taxes, reformed public services and better value for taxpayers' money. We are open about being of the centre-right – we believe in low taxes, public sector reform and personal freedom. But the idea that that puts us in cahoots with the Tories is laughable’[28]

The argument that the Taxpayers’ Alliance share close links with the Conservative Party is strengthened further by looking at which political party’s the TPA donors also give money to.

Taxpayers' Alliance Donors and their Political Party Funding

Most of the known Taxpayers’ Alliance funders also donate money to the Conservative Party, these donors include Anthony Bamford, Robert Edmiston, Stuart Wheeler, Christopher Kelly, Patrick Barbour, Rocco Forte and Tony Gallagher. Two of them, Stuart Wheeler and Patrick Barbour, donate to UKIP and one, Tony Gallagher, has given donations to both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.

This shows clear links between the Conservative Party and the donors to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

In December 2008 Susie Squire from the TPA was asked by Nick Ferrari on his LBC Breakfast Radio Show if the Taxpayers Alliance was 'secretly Conservative?', she responded by saying:

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t have that – that’s outrageous! That’s just absolutely outrageous!' adding 'we’re totally independent, we talk to everyone. I mean, God, I was in Wales at the end of last week, giving evidence on MPs’ expenses to a cross-party independent panel in the Welsh Assembly. We talk to everyone who wants to talk to us. We produce research that goes out to many MPs, cross-party, that goes out to journalists. We don’t have a party preference. Yes of course we have advisors and we have a board – any think tank worth its salt does. We’ll talk to anyone.'[29]

Squire left the Taxpayers Alliance in May 2010 to work as an advisor to the Conservative Party's Iain Duncan Smith.[30]

Susie Squire’s move into government is an example of the ‘revolving door’ between lobbyists and policymakers. Squire moved from being a media lobbyist at the corporate funded Stockholm Network[31], then on to the Taxpayers’ Alliance before moving on to become a government special advisor.

The close links between the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Conservative Party are of interest to understanding the organisation and led to Labour MP John Prescott describing the Taxpayers’ Alliance as a ‘Tory Front’ in 2009.[32] However this description of the Taxpayers’ Alliance is too simplistic and a clearer understanding of their purpose can be understood by looking at the think tank network surrounding the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Susie Squire is not the only connection between the Taxpayers Alliance and the Stockholm Network, the TPA were given an 'innovation award' by the Stockholm Network in 2007.[33] Patrick Barbour who runs the charitable wing of the Taxpayers’ Alliance also helped to fund the Stockholm Network between 2006-2008.[34][35] Barbour has been politically active as a Eurosceptic since at least the early nineties when he helped to fund the Bruges Group[36], a think tank representing the Eurosceptic right of the Conservative Party. He has also given funding to UKIP through another Eurosceptic think tank Global Britain.[37] Malcolm Pearson the former leader of UKIP also sat on the board of the Taxpayers’ Alliance research wing Politics and Economics Research Trust until 2009.[38] Barbour is also involved with a range of conservative think tanks including Reform where he was one of the three founders[39], Civitas, Global Vision[40] and the Young Britons’ Foundation.[41]

Barbour’s mixture of Eurosceptic and free market interests are telling about the ideological agenda behind the Taxpayers’ Alliance. As well as Patrick Barbour many of the Taxpayers’ Alliance donors have Eurosceptic political connections. Eurosceptic businessmen funding the Taxpayers’ Alliance include Malcolm McAlpine who also funds Global Vision[42], Stuart Wheeler who helps to fund Global Vision and UKIP[43] and Rocco Forte who has helped to fund the Conservative Party and was also involved in funding the Bruges Group.[44][45]

The Eurosceptic Connections of the Taxpayers' Alliance Donors

In the aftermath of the 2010 general election the Taxpayers’ Alliance had a roundtable meeting to discuss the Conservative Party's return to power. The meeting was attended by Eurosceptic think tanks Global Vision and Open Europe, climate change sceptics the Global Warming Policy Foundation and free market think tanks including the Centre for Policy Studies, the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Freedom Association as well as a representatives from big business like the Institute of Directors and British Petroleum. The Conservative Party connections held by the TPA only partially explain their activities. Free market and Eurosceptic influences must also be taken into account in helping to understand the TPA's activities.

Research & Campaigning

The first event held by the TPA was a joint venture with the Institute of Economic Affairs held on the 3-February-2004. The seminar was entitled Tax Harmonisation Versus Tax Competition: Which Promotes Prosperity?.[46]

The first Taypayers’ Alliance publication was the ‘Bumper Book of Government Waste’ a book which was to become an annual publication for the TPA. Conservative councillor for Ealing and Northfield Phil Taylor described his relationship with the TPA in February 2009 when he said:

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the TaxPayers’ Alliance. I was involved with them in their very early days. I helped them with their initial fund raising and organising but I got disillusioned because their first publication, The Bumper Book of Government Waste, mixed up capital and revenue and different years and wasn’t really a serious analysis of waste – at least not one that was any use to anyone.

Taylor's criticism of the TPA research not being serious is characteristic of many of their other campaigns in particular the 'debt clock', and '2020 Tax Commission'.

Welfare Reform

The TPA also ran a campaign on welfare reform which argued that the median income for relative poverty should be lowered from 60% to 50%.[47] They also criticised Wilkinson and Pickett's book the Spirit Level, which argued for greater income equality, they were joined in publishing rebuttals of the book by the Policy Exchange and the Democracy Institute. The publications criticising the Spirit Level from the Policy Exchange and the Taxpayers' Alliance were both published 24 hours apart in what appeared to be a co-ordinated attack.[48][49]

Campaigning with the Tobacco Industry

The campaign against the Spirit Level was not the only time the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found itself in agreement with the Democracy Institute. The DI is a lobby group with close links to the tobacco industry.[50] In March 2011, TPA research director Matthew Sinclair signed an open letter to the Telegraph entitled ‘Enemies of Enterprise Seek Controls on Tobacco’.[51] One of Sinclair’s co-signatories was Patrick Basham of the Democracy Institute; Basham has a history of using tobacco industry funds to lobby on their behalf against public health regulation.[52] The TPA are currently working on four separate campaigns, these are the ‘2020 Tax Commission’, ‘The Great EU Debate’, ‘The Debt Clock’, and a campaign against ‘Hate Education’ in the Middle East.

Current Campaigns

The Great EU Debate

The anti-EU campaign run by the TPA is entitled 'The Great EU Debate'. The debate involves campaigning against the UK's current relationship with the European Union. The campaign has a website featuring videos including interviews with conservative MP Daniel Hannan arguing about the importance of Britain's independence.[53] A book entitled 'Ten Years on: Britain without the EU', written by Lee Rotherham is also available to order free on the 'Great EU Debate' website'. The book 'imagines a future where Britain is free to control its own affairs, to strike its own deals and to decide its own fate'.[54] Video Contributions to the site are made by Open Europe and European Movement.[55] This campaign is best understood by looking at the interests of the Eurosceptic millionaires funding the TPA.

The Debt Clock

The Taxpayers’ Alliance ‘debt clock’ is a truck driven around the country with a large red digital clock displaying the UK national debt on its side, in some campaigns TPA activists have worn George Osborne and Danny Alexander masks.[56] The truck is owned and sponsored by Chris Kelly a multi-millionaire businessman who is part of the Midlands Industrial Council, a group set up to donate money to the Conservative Party.[57][58]

Hate Education

According to the Guardian it was Matthew Elliott's 'pro-Israel stance' and 'the perception that British taxpayers' money was being misused to subsidise the publication of incendiary schoolbooks' in the Middle East that led to the Taxpayers' Alliance's campaign against hate education. It argued that the campaign 'stemmed from Elliott's personal concern about incitement of hatred towards Jewish people in the Middle East' but diluted 'the idea that this is an alliance of ordinary taxpayers'.[59]

The campaign is based on the belief that donations from the European parliament to Palestine are being spent on ‘hate education’.[60] As of April 2011, the blog accompanying this campaign has not been updated since September 2010.[61] The Taxpayers’ Alliance roundtable meeting of 2010 was attended by Nathalie Tamam from Conservative Friends of Israel.[62] Conservative MP Timothy Kirkhope is also the Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel Europe. Matthew Elliott had worked for Kirkhope prior to launching the TPA.[63] Conservative Friends of Israel is strongly supported within the Conservative Party with 80% of Conservative MP’s signing up as members.[64]

2020 Tax Commission

On 28 January 2011 the TPA launched an initiative entitled the 2020 Tax Commission. The commission is a collaboration between the TPA and the Institute of Directors. Commenting on the launch of the commission, TPA director Mark Sinclair argued that:

"Most people want the Government’s decisions about tax and spending to be fair, but we can’t decide policy on the basis of an overly simplistic understanding of what that means. Even the most progressive taxes can have perverse results, hitting some families much harder than others for no good reason. And there is nothing fair or progressive about trapping people in dependency on benefits and subsidies. It is vital that we start thinking about how to produce a tax system that is genuinely fairer for families and encourages a strong and dynamic economy."[65]

The first research paper released by the Taxpayers Alliance for the 2020 Tax Commission project highlighted unfair tax scenarios by using 'celebrities and familiar characters from soaps like Eastenders and The Archers to draw hypothetical examples based on characters fictional tax circumstances'.[66]

TPA Tax Comparison made using Coronation Street characters
TPA Tax Comparison made using Susan Boyle and a Banker

The nature of these campaigns shows that rather than make a serious contribution to debates on tax and spending they are geared to achieving maximum impact in the media. The successful nature of this approach can be seen by looking more closely at the media coverage gained by the TPA.

Media Coverage

Paul Lashmar, an investigative reporter and lecturer in journalism at University College Falmouth, told the Independent that there was 'a direct relation between the rise of the TPA and the pressures on news organisations'. He argued that:

'Journalists are often now so overstretched that a lot of work that used to be carried out in the newsroom is carried out by groups like the TPA. You don't see extensive research anymore whereas it used to be commonplace in Sunday papers to have exercises where, for example, you would ring around every MP for their opinions as the TPA has done numerous times'.

Lashmar went on to say that:

'What you see now is journalists who are grateful for news which is almost perfectly packaged to go into the paper with a ready top line. In that sense, journalism is becoming very passive. It is a processor of other people's information rather than being engaged in actively seeking out and determining what the truth of a situation is in an energetic and inquisitive way.'[67]

The majority of media coverage given to the Alliance's research is produced in the tabloid press with the Daily Express producing over 3,000 articles on the TPA since the campaign group was set up in 2004. The newspaper coverage shows that newspapers on the left[68] of the political spectrum like the Independent and the Guardian have given the group only a small amount of coverage and some of this coverage has been critical of the TPA.[69][70]

A graph showing all media coverage of the Taxpayers Alliance since its inception, up to February-2011, Source: Nexis UK
Newspaper Taxpayers Alliance Related Articles
The Express and Sunday Express 3071
Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday 1283
The Sun 978
Daily Star 701
Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph 591
The Times and Sunday Times 489
The Mirror and Sunday Mirror 463
The Guardian and The Observer 178
The People 75
The Independent 63 [71]

Newspapers on the right[72] of the political spectrum produce far more articles related to the research of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Many of these articles uncritically reproduce the research of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a practice described in Nick Davies book, Flat Earth News as ‘churnalism’.[73] The connection between the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the practice of churnalism can be seen by using the Media Standards Trust new ‘churnalism’ engine. The engine compares press releases to coverage in UK newspapers to analyse the percentage of news stories that are cut and pasted from press releases. A Taxpayers’ Alliance press release from February 2011 criticised local authorities for spending £293 million on supply teachers.[74]

Taxpayers' Alliance Press Release reproduced as 'Churnalism'[75]

The results from the churnalism engine show that the press release was reported on the BBC News site, in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Guardian.[76] The Daily Mail and Daily Express stories uncritically reproduced the TPA research, reproducing 40% and 32% of the press release respectively. The BBC took a more factual tone however they actually cut and pasted the highest percentage of the press release in their story with 40% of it reproduced uncritically. The Guardian used the TPA study to add additional sources to a slightly different piece however they still managed to paste 17% of the TPA press release into their story. This type of lobbying from the TPA comes at a time when the media are least able to resist it, a time when 60 per cent of stories in UK newspapers rely almost exclusively on pre-packaged information from external sources.[77]

2010 Roundtable Meeting

See main article: Taxpayers' Alliance Roundtable

On 12th May 2010 the Taxpayers' Alliance held a roundtable meeting to discuss 'the election and its aftermath'.[78] The meeting was attended by representatives from a range of right wing think tanks including the International Policy Network, Nothing British, Young Britons' Foundation, Adam Smith Institute, Progressive Vision, Civitas, Global Warming Policy Foundation, Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs, Henry Jackson Society, Social Affairs Unit, Centre for Social Cohesion, Open Europe, Freedom Association and Institute of Directors. The meeting also had representatives from British Petroleum and London School of Economics.[79]




Midlands Industrial Council | Tony Gallagher | Christopher Kelly | Robert Edmiston | Anthony Bamford | Malcolm McAlpine | David Alberto | Stuart Wheeler | Rocco Forte | John Craven | Patrick Barbour

Speakers at TPA Events

Eric Pickles | Liam Fox | David Davis



Academic Advisory Council

As of 2012 the Alliance no longer publicises the existence of an Academic Advisory council. It was listed on the Alliance website until at least April 2010.[81]

Advisors 2005

Norman Barry, University of Buckingham | John Blundell, Institute of Economic Affairs | Keith Boyfield, Keith Boyfield Associates | Eamonn Butler, Adam Smith Institute | Tim Congdon, Lombard Street Research | Stephen Davies, Manchester Metropolitan University | Kevin Dowd, University of Nottingham | Charles Hanson, Economic Consultant | Ruth Lea, Centre for Policy Studies | Keith Marsden, Consultant, United Nations | Patrick Minford, Cardiff Business School | Kenneth Minogue, London School of Economics | Michael Mosbacher, Social Affairs Unit | Dennis O’Keeffe, University of Buckingham | Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute | David B. Smith, Williams de Broë | James Sproule, Augusta Finance | Gabriel Stein, Lombard Street Research | Elaine Sternberg, University of Leeds | James Tooley, University of Newcastle | Alan Walters




Conservative Party | UKIP | Global Vision | Politics and Economics Research Trust | Midlands Industrial Council | Keltruck | West Midlands Taxpayers' Alliance | HS2 Cannot be Justified | Institute of Economic Affairs | Institute of Directors | Social Affairs Unit | Global Warming Policy Foundation | Bruges Group | Adam Smith Institute | Reform | Stockholm Network | Shell | British Petroleum | Open Europe | Nothing British | Young Britons' Foundation | Adam Smith Institute | Progressive Vision | Civitas | Centre for Policy Studies | Democracy Institute | Policy Exchange | Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development | The Free Society | The Business | Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development | Hayek Society | Heritage Foundation | Enemies of Enterprise Seek Controls on Tobacco | European Movement | Institute for Policy Research | Christopher Snowdon[84]

External Resources

References, Resources and Contact


The TaxPayers' Alliance
55 Tufton Street
London, SW1P 3QL



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