The Treasury Committee of the House of Commons published the following figure in its recent report on savings, pensions and related issues:
There are three things to note. First, the lower half of the income distribution (broadly earning less than £24,000 pa in the year in question) get 10% of all pension tax relief.
The so-called middle-income earners (earning £24,000 to about £54,000 in that year) enjoy 40% of tax reliefs.
And the top 10% of earners, all earning over £54,000 pa) enjoy 50% of all tax relief.
The total cost of the tax reliefs is as follows:
The total comes to £54.8 billion: the tax receipt offset is wholly bogus accounting that is utterly unacceptable under any accounting convention.
In other words, tax relief for those best off - which is nothing more than a straightforward state subsidy for their savings which increases the wealth divide in the UK as a result - costs £27 billion a year.
This needs to be put in context. In 2016/17 the spending on welfare in the UK was approximately as follows:
Comparison should not be made with housing benefit - since the vast majority of that goes to landlords, most of whom will also be in the top 10% of income earners.
And it's hard to call pensions -which are paid almost universally - a welfare payment.
Whilst unemployment benefits are almost insignificant.
The other benefits come to £125bn.
And the best off get a sum equivalent to 20% of that just to boost their wealth.
What is the logic to this? It's almost impossible to discern.
The Treasury Committee suggests reform to pension tax relief, giving it at a flat rate.
I am beginning to question why it is given at all.