Citizen’s Basic Income: A brief introduction

Social Security

A Citizen’s Basic Income is an unconditional, automatic and nonwithdrawable payment to each individual as a right of citizenship. (A Citizen’s Basic Income (CBI) is sometimes called a Basic Income (BI) or a Citizen’s Income (CI))

  • ‘Unconditional’: A CBI would vary with age, but there would be no other conditions: so everyone of the same age would receive the same CBI, whatever their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.
  • ‘Automatic’: Someone’s CBI would be paid weekly or monthly, automatically.
  • ‘Nonwithdrawable’: CBIs would not be means-tested. If someone’s earnings or wealth increased, then their Citizen’s Basic Income would not change.
  • ‘Individual’: CBIs would be paid on an individual basis, and not on the basis of a couple or household.
  • ‘As a right’: Everybody legally resident in the UK would receive a CBI, subject to a minimum period of legal residency in the UK, and continuing residency for most of the year.

A Citizen’s Basic Income scheme would phase out as many allowances against personal income tax as possible, and would phase out or reduce many existing means-tested benefits, and would pay a Citizen’s Basic Income automatically to every man, woman and child.

The Citizen’s Basic Income would

  • create a financial platform on which all would be free to build
  • encourage individual freedom and responsibility
  • help to bring about social cohesion
  • end perverse incentives that discourage work and savings
  • be affordable within current revenue and expenditure constraints
  • be easy to understand
  • be cheap to administer and easy to automate


A Citizen’s Basic Income (CBI) scheme would co-ordinate the income tax and benefits systems. CBIs would be paid automatically, and the cost would be recouped via Income Tax levied on all income and by reducing means-tested benefits. At the moment claimants and taxpayers experience very different regulations. A CBI would treat everyone alike.

Automatic payments.

Each week or each month, every legal resident would automatically be given the CBI appropriate to his or her age. For most adults this could be done through the banking system, and for children it could be done through the bank accounts of their parents. For adults without bank accounts special provisions would be necessary. Larger CBIs might be paid to older people, and smaller CBIs to children and young people, but there would be no differences on account of gender or marital status, nor on account of work status, contribution record, or living arrangements.

Tax-free and without means test.

The CBIs would be tax-exempt and without a means test, but tax would be payable on all, or almost all, other income. This is necessary in order to finance the scheme. The rate of tax would depend on the CBI amounts. The higher the CBI, the higher the Income Tax rate.

Funded by Income Tax.

There are various ways of funding a CBI. The particular illustrative scheme discussed would be funded by removing some tax allowances and National Insurance Contribution earnings thresholds, and reducing or abolishing means-tested benefits. Later on a larger CBI could be part of a wider tax reform package including, for example, a land value tax, a financial transaction tax, and/or a carbon tax.

Implementation methods.

At the point of implementation, either meanstested benefits could be abolished, or some or all of them could be retained and everybody’s in-work and out-of-work means-tested benefits recalculated to take into account their CBIs. A CBI could either be implemented for everybody at the same time, or successively for different age groups.

From the Citizen’s Income Trust, where more details can be found