The coalition will defend plans to remove child benefit from about one million of the highest-paid by arguing that the move is supported by the vast majority of society.
HM Revenue & Customs will this week send a mail-out to all households with at least one person earning over £50,000 – some 15 per cent of families with children – warning them that they will no longer receive the full payments.
Tory MPs have warned of a major backlash against the move, which will see better-off voters losing more than £1,000 a year for a first child and almost £2,500 for three children under the changes, which take effect in January.
Some fear there could be a major problem of non-compliance if people refuse to tell the taxman that they no longer merit the payments.
But the Conservative party will today (Monday) publish a poll suggesting that 82 per cent of people support the move, which comes at a time of steep cuts to public spending across the board.
Even among high-income households the policy is still supported by a large majority, the survey found.
“In a period when the Government is having to reduce welfare spending, it is very difficult to justify continuing to pay for the child benefit of the wealthiest 15 per cent of families in society,” said a Treasury spokesman.
“The government has had to make tough choices to reduce public spending; but we have always been clear that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden.”
The system has been complicated by a taper measure, introduced in the last Budget, under which the benefit is only gradually removed between salaries of £50,000 and £60,000. The government will seek to claw back the benefit through self-assessment forms for those who do not voluntarily surrender the payments.
Aides said that the move was one of the government’s most popular policies and asked what Labour would do instead to find the £1.7bn raised by the measure.
Ed Miliband’s party has suggested it would not end child benefit for the rich on the basis that it would undermine the “universality” of benefits.