I think someone said during the Daily Politics show on BBC2 yesterday – in and around the last Prime Minister’s Question Time before 7th May – that there are 43 days to go to the General Election. Despite Alex Salmond’s concerted campaign to de-stabilise the established Westminster elite’s Two Party hegemony, the Tories and Labour theatrically trading economic plan insults and pledges and the widely-expected ‘breakthrough’ moment so far failing to materialise in the pollsters’ findings, I’m rapidly reaching the end of my tether with the political class’s antics.
In the good old days, the situation was quite straightforward – if you like, a fiscal version of the biblical “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”. The taxpayer stumped up in tax no more than what he legally had to, with the caveat that, if you or your advisers could find a way through the minefield of laws, rules and regulations, and thereby minimise your liability, that was not just your business but actually your right.
Now, fuelled by the influence of Margaret Hodge’s chairmanship of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the world of politics has recently developed the concept that businesses and wealthy individuals should not just pay what they legally have to, but what someone else thinks they morally ought to.
In short, previously ‘evasion’ was illegal but ‘avoidance’ fine. Nowadays, however, the whole tax things had become much more muddied and complicated. Big companies and wealthy individuals are being ‘shamed’ into paying not just what is legally due but that which they ought to pay, that is, if they were not allowed to look in detail at the tax laws as established every year and look to see if they can minimise their liability.
Well, it’s not even that, is it?
It seems that a certain degree of ‘tax planning’ is permissible both by law and moral convention, but not too much – in other words, anyone subsequently found to have been too clever by half will be deemed to have acted immorally … and thereby potentially in danger of being pilloried by politicians and those envious plebs who cannot afford, or don’t have access to, the kind of advice and consultant who make it their business to ‘play the tax system’ (i.e. find ways around it) in order to pay as little tax as legally possible.
Here’s a link to a report in The Guardian today on the latest plans being hatched to make tax avoidance illegal – PROSECUTING TAX AVOIDANCE
Personally, I’m old-fashioned. I think that Caesar should set the tax laws … and after that it should effectively be ‘open season’ on us trying to find legal ways of minimising our tax liability – which is every citizen’s right.
In my view, moral rectitude is personal thing and it should play no part in legal responsibility. ‘Tax avoidance’ should not be a dirty phrase, whether it’s used in connection with a large corporation or a single individual.
I’m also getting fed up big-time with the whole business of British kids trickling out – whether via Turkey or other more circuitous routes – to Syria or wherever it is the self-styled ‘Islamic State’ operates from.
In my view Britain, with its pronounced notions of ‘the rule of law’, the moral high ground, decency, far play, multi-culturalism, human rights conventions etc., too often gets itself hamstrung by its own red tape, real and imaginary.
I’m also irritated by parents, schools, higher educational establishments and religious institutions washing their hands of any responsibility for what might be termed ‘groomed youngsters’ that become radicalised and enticed or persuaded to leave their secure, comfortable lives in Britain and head off to fight against everything The West stands for, and instead simply blame the government and/or ‘the authorities’ generally for not doing enough to protect their hitherto ‘innocent’ charges.
And I’m also irritated bythe politicians who pander to them. See here for a link to a piece in The Guardian today detailing the latest proposals being put up for consideration – PREVENTION STRATEGY
I’m no right wing loony, but here’s my alternative solution to some of these issues:
I’d have a 747 airliner parked, with the engine ticking over, at the end of the runway at Gatwick at 1000 hours every morning, offering anyone who wants to go and join the Islamic State (in whatever capacity they’re thinking off) a free flight to the first Syrian (or Islamic State-controlled) airport that will let them land.
It would be organised on the basis that all passengers handed in their passports, signed a document stating that they absolved Britain of all responsibility for whatever happened to them, acknowledged that it was a one-way ticket and (lastly) that accepted that, by taking the flight, they forfeited all right to ever return to the UK in the future.
It might make some of the ‘volunteers’ – and their families, schools, educational establishments and religious institutions – wake up and smell the coffee.