The TaxPayers’ Alliance

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The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) is a right wing think tank and lobbying group that purports to be a grassroots campaign for “lower taxes”.1 It is closely aligned to the Conservative party and its donors, as well as the wider conservative movement within the UK. The TPA is one of more than 475 right-wing organisations around the world that are members of the Atlas Network.

Key Personnel

The TPA was set up in 2004 by Matthew Elliott, Florence Heath (Elliot’s wife), and Andrew Allum. Allum was Chair until 2019, when he was replaced by Mike Denham.2

Pro-Tobacco Activities

The Letter to the Daily Telegraph

In March 2011, Matthew Sinclair, the Director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.

2012: No Longer Involved in the Tobacco Debate

In May 2012, when asked to clarify whether Big Brother Watch was / had received tobacco industry funding, Nick Pickles replied: “We’re not involved in the tobacco/health/plain packaging debate and have not made any public statements on the issue for at least six months. I joined as Director in September 2011. We do not intend to do so for the foreseeable future.3

2016: Criticizes UK Tobacco Tax

In 2016, the TPA published a briefing describing tobacco duty in the UK as “needlessly complicated, economically distortionary and morally oppressive”.4 It also associated tobacco duty with illicit tobacco, an Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging: It will Lead to Increased Smuggling argument commonly used by the tobacco industry. They also argued that “smokers who do suffer major health problems due to smoking are more likely to die prematurely, reducing expenditure on state pensions and other age-related benefits”.5

For more information on tobacco taxes see Price and tax 

Potential Third Party Lobby Group for PMI

In mid-2013, new leaked documents authored by PMI in early 2012 came to light. The documents revealed that the company planned a multi-faceted campaign to oppose the British government’s plans to introduce plain packaging.67

TPA identified by Philip Morris International as an ‘Influencer’

The leaked presentations show that PMI identified all those whom it considered to be major players in the UK legislative decision-making process.

PMI named ‘key committees’ such as the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Unit, the Regulatory Policy Committee and the Government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) Reducing Regulation Committee (p15) which, among other things’ strive to reduce the burden of regulation in accordance with the principles of better regulation.
PMI also presented a model centred around UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the ‘decision maker‘. Cameron at the epicentre was surrounded by nine ‘formal/informal advisors’ who in turn were surrounded by a large number of ‘influencers’ including MPs, Lords, Government departments and a series of non-governmental organisations, charities and lobby groups (See Image). Included amongst the lobby groups identified by PMI as influencers was the TPA.

TPA is a member of the Atlas network

The TPA is one of more than 475 rightwing organisations around the world that are members of the Atlas Network whose donors include British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International, and Morris International (PMI) (see Atlas Network for detail). In 2013 the Atlas Network awarded the TPA a $100,000 prize for their work.8


In 2009 an investigation by the Guardian newspaper established that “a large part” of the TaxPayers’ Alliance funding came “from wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party. Sixty per cent of donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies. Tony Gallagher, owner of Gallagher UK, a property company that gave the Conservatives £250,000 in 2007, is a member of the MIC, as is Christopher Kelly who owns the international haulage firm Keltruck, and Robert Edmiston who owns IM Group, a large car importer”.9

In 2018 Elliot said that he did not believe that the TPA should have to disclose its donors: “I don’t think so, I think people have a right to donate to charities and campaigns anonymously.”10

Open Democracy, an independent international media platform, gives the Taxpayers Alliance the lowest possible ranking for transparency.11

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Tax payers’ Alliance Our mission, accessed July 2019
  2. Mike Denham, TPA website, undated, accessed July 2019
  3. Nick Pickles, Email to Tobacco Control Research Group, 11 May 2012
  4. Tobacco duty, TPA website, undated, accessed July 2019
  5. The TPA argued that duty rates should be frozen and move towards a “uniform, single rate”.
  6. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update February 2012, Leaked in 2013.
  7. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update March 2012, Leaked in 2013
  8. The Atlas Network 2013 Templeton Freedom Award Winner, 2013, accessed July 2019
  9. Robert Booth, “Who is behind the Taxpayers’ Alliance?”, The Guardian, 9 October 2009, accessed July 2019
  10. G. Eaton, Vote Leave head Matthew Elliot: “The Brexiteers won the battle but we could lose the war”, New Statesman America, 5 September 2018, accessed July 2019
  11. Open Democracy, Who Funds You?, website, undated, accessed December 2023