Panorama: The truth about Tax was broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 14 March 2004 at 2215 GMT
Tax is back in the news again - as pensioner protests grow against Council Tax, experts warn that taxes may have to go up, and the Conservative party argues for restraining public spending.
It is the topic that politicians hate to talk about. And no wonder. The public hate paying tax, but love to demand better funded public services. So, on the eve of the budget, the BBC's Economics Editor, Evan Davis, asks what do we want from tax? And what can we expect?
Panorama examines the Chancellor's fiscal arithmetic - how taxes may need to rise to finance government spending plans. And how in the long term, demographic changes imply the debate about tax will become more intense.
If taxes do have to rise, which tax are we most willing to pay? Or would the public rather pay for services directly? The programme reveals new polling evidence on the public's attitude towards tax.
But Britain seems incapable of having an open debate about tax. The public don't trust politicians - and just as importantly, the politicians don't trust the public.
Ever since 1992, when Labour lost an election after proposing a big rise in taxes, politicians have been reluctant to believe polls saying we are prepared to pay more tax for better services. Panorama examines how the public debate closed down in the 1990s.
The programme examines the decision to use stealth taxes in the first Labour parliament of 1997, and the decision to dodge questions about tax rises in the 2001 election campaign - less than a year before the announcement of a big rise in National Insurance.
The programme also talks to Britain's tax rebels - council tax protestors in Devon, and Brynle Williams, who led the fuel tax protests. Is it possible to demand lower taxes, while preserving the standards of public service people expect?
Reporter: Evan Davis
Producer: Tristan Quinn
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Sam Collyns
Editor: Mike Robinson