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'New tax cuts unlikely before 2015'

The overall tax burden will have to remain at its current level for five years, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has suggested.

In an interview with The Observer, the Liberal Democrat appeared to dismiss the prospect of net tax cuts before the next general election, planned for 2015.

"I think the tax burden is necessary as a significant contribution to getting the country's finances in order," he said.

"So it will have to stay at that level for quite some time."

Asked whether a reduction in the overall tax burden was possible once the country's books were in order, he added: "You are asking me to take decisions for five years down the line now and I am not going to do that."

Mr Alexander, Chancellor George Osborne's deputy, said he wanted to "rebalance" the tax system, however, so that people on lower incomes pay less tax as an incentive for them to find and stay in work.

That suggests that higher earners would have little respite from tax to look forward to until 2015.

"The plan we set out is to rebalance the tax system," Mr Alexander said.

"We need the tax revenues from the taxes we are putting up to help us reduce the deficit."

His comments will disappoint those hoping that massive cuts across Whitehall to deal with the £155 billion deficit will create the conditions for tax cuts within a few years.

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