Child benefit is to be scrapped for higher rate taxpayers from 2013, Chancellor George Osborne has announced, in a move that will save the government £1bn.
Couples where one parent earns about £44,000 - roughly the 40% tax level - and above will be affected. Ministers estimate the change will hit about 1.2 million families.
Ahead of his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, Osborne told the BBC it was a "big" but "absolutely necessary" decision. He also insisted it was a "one-off" measure.
Currently child benefit is paid to some 7.7 million families with children, costing about £12bn a year.
"It is not a decision we have taken lightly," Osborne said. "But given the scale of the debts Labour's left us with, and given they've left us with no plan and we've had to come up with proposals, we think this is fair.
"It means we're all in this together. Each part of society is going to be making a contribution."
People will be expected to declare on their tax returns whether they fall within the 40% and 50% tax brackets and the money will then be clawed back through the tax system.
Despite Osborne's assertion the move would only impact higher-rate taxpayers, critics said single parents and couples on relatively modest incomes would also be penalised.
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