More than £1 in every five paid in income tax is being spent on benefits, according to official figures.
British taxpayers paid £5,210 in income tax on average in 2011-12, with £1,166.32 going on welfare payments – and that figure does not include pensions. That’s equal to 22.4% of the total tax paid.
The figures produced by the Treasury also showed that £369.91 of income tax being collected from individuals is going towards paying the interest on the country’s debt.
Another £3,673.77 is spent on other areas, according to the information released by treasury minister David Gauke in response to a parliamentary question by Conservative MP Robert Halfon.
Conservative peer Michael Bates, a former minister and MP, said the statistics underlined the need for the government to get to grips with the welfare budget given the country’s difficult financial position.
Backing a cap on benefits and rises on payments, he said: “It just explains the urgency of the reforms that are currently taking place and I might say the bewilderment at the [Labour] Opposition’s opposition.
"Because you cannot hope to correct the fiscal situation without having a long, cold look at that budget.”
Lord Bates stressed the need to improve the incentives for people to work, but added: “At all times protecting those most vulnerable who aren’t able to work be they disabled or pensioners.”
The release of the figures comes just weeks before the chancellor, George Osborne, will unveil his latest budget on 20 March amid wrangling within the coalition over where further spending could be slashed.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond has already sparked feuding within government ranks by calling for fresh welfare cuts to protect spending on the armed forces.