Wealthiest 1% of UK holds £800bn more than official data shows

The wealthiest 1% of UK households has almost £800bn more wealth than official statistics show, according to new research by Resolution Foundation.

The think tank suggested that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) main data misses around 5% of the total wealth in the UK, held by the very wealthiest households, which conservatively amounts to around £800bn.

Resolution Foundation uncovered the missing wealth by merging the official ONS Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) – which the Foundation indicated “struggles” to capture the assets of very wealthy households – with data published in the Sunday Times Rich List.

The findings suggested that taking this missing wealth into account significantly increases measures of wealth inequality, raising the top 1% of household’s share of total wealth by over a quarter – from 18% to 23%. The Foundation also noted that even without the missing £800bn, wealth across the UK is “very unequally distributed”, with total wealth inequality around twice as high as income inequality.

With the research also indicating the UK is entering a decade of mounting fiscal pressures – both due to the cost of the pandemic and an ageing population causing health and welfare spending to rise by £38bn a year by 2030 decade – the Foundation indicated that wealth taxation will need to play a bigger role in the UK economy over the next decade.

“The UK has undergone a wealth boom in recent decades, which has continued even while earnings and incomes have stagnated,” commented Resolution Foundation economist, Jack Leslie. “But official data has struggled to capture these gains, and misses £800bn of assets held by the very wealthiest households in Britain.

“With the country facing a decade of mounting fiscal pressures, now is the time for Britain to do a better job of taxing its record levels of wealth by reforming our capital gains, inheritance and property taxes.”

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