Boris Johnson has claimed to lack any knowledge of the overall tax burden rising under Conservative plans, despite party figures predicting such an outcome.
The prime minister said a majority Conservative government wants to deliver a February budget which will cut taxes for working families, and stressed this would be achieved under his plans.
But he said he was “not aware of the data” described when told the manifesto would, overall, raise tax.
A costings document released alongside the party’s manifesto shows tax cuts would amount to £3.195 billion in 2020/21 compared to tax increases of £3.32 billion.
The sources of revenue table is also higher in subsequent years compared to the tax cuts figures, with the pledge to maintain corporation tax at 19% the main driver of revenue raising.
A party spokesman later said the manifesto would not put up personal taxes while revenue raised from corporation tax would be put towards public services.
When pressed whether the Conservative Party manifesto would raise tax overall, Mr Johnson replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about – we’re cutting taxes on business rates, we’re cutting national insurance contributions for everybody in the country paying their NICs.”
Told again the manifesto would overall raise taxes and such details were in the party’s costings document, the prime minister said: “We’re cutting taxes on national insurance contributions and on business rates and I’m certainly not aware of the data you describe.
“We’re cutting taxes and in our first budget we propose to do more to cut taxes.”
Pressed further in a later question, Mr Johnson told reporters: “We’re not going to begin in the first budget by cutting taxes on absolutely everything.
“We’re going to begin by cutting taxes for those who need the most help with the cost of living.
“That’s why we’re doing things like cutting national insurance first because everybody benefits from it.”
He reiterated his national insurance plans and increases to the minimum wage.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Our manifesto does not propose increasing taxes on UK resident companies and would not put up personal taxes for hard-working Brits.
“We have been very clear that we are pausing future corporation tax cuts, and will invest this money into our NHS.
“We will also introduce a surcharge on those buying UK property from abroad, increase the immigration health surcharge so everyone contributes to our NHS and put up taxes on plastic bags to help our environment.”
Mr Johnson has refused to be questioned by Julie Etchingham and would not appear on ITV’s Tonight programme.
He has also declined to be grilled by Andrew Neil on the BBC, something Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has done.
Defending his decision, Mr Johnson said: “I’m the first Prime Minister to have done two, or about to do two one-on-one leadership debates, several hours’ worth of phone-ins, endless press conferences and interviews with all sorts of BBC people called Andrew.
“And I will continue to submit to the interrogation of the media.”