Saturday, 29 September 2012

Tax as a punishment

I take the blunt and simple view that the only consideration when setting tax rates should be to keep them as low as possible to raise the revenue required in order to provide the services we expect from the government - whatever those rates are and what we want the government to provide is for another blog post however - I'm interested in what other people think about this. On Thursday night, Steve Coogan stated on Question Time that he was in favour of a mansion tax even if it raised no revenue as it was demonstrating to the public that the government was making the wealthy pay (especially if they were Tories). So if it isn't going to raise any revenue, and that will be down to the cost of implementation, collection, behavioural changes, avoidance, and evasion, then it's simply a punishment for being in possession of valuable asset. Fuckwit.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Demanding crusties

A press release from UK Uncut:
UK Uncut demand government reject Lord Fink’s call for UK to become a tax haven and take urgent steps to prevent billions being lost through tax avoidance
This is in response to the following quote:
Fink, who is a director of three firms which have subsidiaries or a parent company in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Guernsey, said: "I don't see why the UK should not compete for jobs that at present are going to the Cayman Islands. I lobbied George Osborne when the Tories were in opposition. I have long felt that the British government loses jobs to tax havens by allowing the Revenue to have these rather archaic rules.
Usual lefty anger to be filed under "meh" then. There's a few interesting claims in there as well that we can take apart:
An investigation by the Times this week found that more than 2,000 Britons in Monaco are costing the UK economy £1billion a year in lost tax revenue.
Covered that one yesterday.
UK Uncut spokesperson Anna Walker said “Tax avoidance costs the UK £25billion a year..."
Not according to HMRC though:
The tax gap – the difference between what is owed and what is collected – is about £35 billion, which is eight per cent of the total amount of tax due. Tax avoidance accounts for 14 per cent of this gap – around £5 billion or one per cent of the tax due.
 And UK Uncut enemy number one gets a mention:
Despite vetting by HMRC, the government has still seen fit to award several tax exiles with honours. These include the billionaire Sir Phillip Green- who avoided £285million in capital gains tax in 2005.
Now you would think that after two years in existence, UK Uncut would have grasped some rudimentary tax knowledge and got its facts straight. This relates to the famous Arcadia dividend that was paid to the ultimate owner Christina Green, wife of Sir Philip. Now if you know of a way to extract UK tax from a South African, living in Monaco, who was paid a dividend seven years ago from a Jersey-based company, then HMRC would like to hear from you. And dividends are income, not capital gains you imbeciles.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Tax dodging in forrin land

More than 2,000 Britons who live in the tax haven of Monaco are costing the UK economy £1billion a year in lost revenue, it was claimed last night
Ex-pats living in the principality are free to get honours, fund political parties and run businesses while escaping the taxes that apply to other citizens.
To live in Monaco there are rules set by HM Revenue and Customs that Britons have to meet, including an ability to prove they have made a ‘definite break’ with Britain.
So they don't pay UK tax because they live abroad and don't have taxable income/gains/etc. in the UK. Well I don't pay tax in Spain because I live in the UK and don't have taxable income/gains/etc. in Spain. Funny that.

(And as far as I'm aware, it's Philip Green's wife who lives in Monaco...)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Swampy gets a job

As a librarian:
On Tuesday the squatters, who describe themselves as caretakers, are opening for business, lending books for the first time since the council closed the library. While they don't have the knowledge and expertise of trained librarians they have plenty of enthusiasm. They have set up a rota of volunteer librarians so that the library can open four days a week.
Cool, so we've got books, music, internet, free wireless, daily newspapers, photocopying and printing facilities, and all the other things we expect from a library these days?  Perhaps not:
A few dog-eared copies of novels by Joanna Trollope and Wilbur Smith sit on the otherwise bare shelves of Friern Barnet library alongside banners urging "peace", "occupy" and "revolution".
So what we have here, as someone commented in the Guardian today, is not so much a library but a room with some books in it. It is about as much a library as me cooking up a few sausages on a disposable barbecue on the village green and calling it a restaurant.

Of course the usual boilerplate squatting excuses come out - "reopening community facilities" and "welcomed by residents". That isn't quite the true picture though:
THE organisers of a campaign to reopen Friern Barnet Library say they will not be joining the group of protesters currently occupying the building.

Friern Barnet Library closed on April 5 after a long campaign by local residents, including the Save Friern Barnet Library group, opposed to plans to merge the library with North Finchley library to create a landmark arts library at artsdepot in Tally Ho Corner. On that day 16 members of the public staged a sit-in in protest to the closure.

Since then the community have held several pop-up libraries outside the library's former home.
But Maureen Ivens of the Save Friern Barnet Library group said the group had decided to refuse the invitation.

She said: “We have been invited by the new occupants to join them in running a community library in the building but have decided not to trespass there but continue to run our protest libraries from the adjacent village green.
Seems like the community has been fine doing their own thing for the past five months. Funny how the squatters turned up just after squatting in residential properties was made illegal.

The BBC has also run an article on this that makes something very clear that the Guardian only hinted at:
A week ago a small group began living in Friern Barnet library, north London, and operating a community-run service.
Occupy London, which is is staying on site, said it received an eviction notice on Thursday morning.
Now interestingly, the council has offered them an alternative site to run a community library from but it's the Friern Barnet site or nothing apparently. Perhaps the most damning part of this is:
Pete Phoenix, of Occupy London, said the building's occupation was a direct result of changes to the law which allowed police to raid residential properties on suspicion they were being occupied by squatters and remove them.
So it isn't about reinstating community facilities. No, it's a pathetic front for freeloading. No one in Barnet will hear from them again when they're finally evicted.

Monday, 10 September 2012

This is what democracy looks like

It's been a while since I've written about Occupy London as all that's left appears to be a rag-tag bunch of around ten people, in varying degrees of sobriety with a manky tent and a PA system, ranting about police oppression and "banksters". One member of the group has kindly taken the time to video the proceedings and post them on Bambuser for the world to see.  One of these rants general assemblies has come to my attention* and features none other than the named defendant for the entire St. Paul's protest and general Occupy poster girl Tammy Samede. Watching around the 1:06:33 mark, we hear her say:
For what it's worth guys I agree with you...and I think it could be easily solved with a few well placed molotov cocktails in certain directions, might go down really well.
 Rather fiery and violent this peaceful protesting; perhaps there's a reason for it:


Ah, taken out of context. I guess it's only fair to watch what preceded her remarks then. At 1:03:45:
So what do we do then? Let's just fucking get it off 'em. Let's do it, right now. Let's go to their big fancy houses, break in, smash 'em up, take their gold, take their bearer bonds, take their shares, let's do it. Let's fucking do it man.
This is followed by another chap who appears rather intoxicated at 1:05:08 with this to say:
I think we need to focus on things more like PC Simon Harwood who lives in [gives out Harwood's address]. I think we should petrol bomb the cunt's house 'cause he killed Ian Tomlinson, and I think that's wrong; he battered Ian Tomlinson...why can these cunts get away with attacking people and they think that we won't bring the fight to them? They're fucking wrong, 'cause me and my fucking revolutionary army are fucking going to bring the fight to them, fucking bring them down with any force that needs be. Thank you, big up yo!
It seems pretty clear to me then that theft, firebombing, vandalism, and vigilantism is what Occupy London believes that democracy looks like.

* Hat-tip to Fat Councillor for finding this gem.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Predistribution

Ed Miliband's comeback is based on one horrendous made-up word - "predistribution". In a nutshell, this is stopping people from having stuff in the first place rather than letting them have it and then redistributing through taxation as benefits. Examples of this would be increasing wages at the bottom (see living wage) to save on tax credits and rent controls to reduce spending on housing benefit. Now I'm not in favour of benefit dependency so this should be a good thing right? Nope, this still distorts the market but at a different point in the process, and also adds another level of government control, something typical and beloved of Labour.

In my ideal world, there wouldn't be all this minimum wage, housing benefit, and tax credit nonsense, we'd let the market decide what a job or house was worth. The government sticking its oar in has fucked all this up and is now difficult to reverse. But predistribution isn't just about wages and rents; it can be about regulation and control over anything - want a banking license? We're going to tell you who to lend to so the money goes to the "right" people. Landlord? This is how much you can charge your tenants, oh and we've limited the number of properties that you're allowed to buy to let. Company director on a big salary? We're capping that at ten times the wage of your lowest paid worker. So by letting the government control things like this, at what point would it leave you alone to get on with things? The answer to this is that it wouldn't. This is only the top of a slippery slope where things are controlled, restricted, or banned in the name of equality or because they know what's best for you. Be careful what you wish for...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Fuck off hippies

Good news - squatting is now a criminal offence:
Squatting in a residential building in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday, meaning squatters would face jail or a fine.  
Ministers said it would offer better protection for homeowners and "slam shut the door on squatters once and for all". 
The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.
But not everyone is happy:
Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters' Action for Secure Housing, told the BBC: "What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
That's the Squatters' Action for Secure Housing or Squash. They claim that:
The legislation will have impacts on the most vulnerable people in society, will empower unscrupulous landlords and will burden the justice system, police and charities.
Oh really? From the only story in the "Squatter Stories" section of their website:
I got into squatting through Occupy London. After camping in a tent I moved into the publicly repossessed UBS Bank complex ‘Bank of Ideas’ near Liverpool Street. It was there that I really came to appreciate the political potency of reclaimed urban space in a city centre devoured by private property, security, CCTV and Police helicopters.
When I used to rent I often got bored and isolated. These days, no two days of my life are the same. The large network of people that make up the London squatting movement are some of the brightest threads in the fabric of London’s activist and artistic community. There are dedicated professionals of all different kinds contributing essential services to the city, united by an inability or unwillingness to pay London rates of rent.
Then all becomes clear - the new law threatens their lifestyle choice which is parasitical and ideological, taking from others and giving nothing back in return. So fuck off hippies, it's time to pay your way like the rest of us.

Update on 14/9/2012 - The Squatter Stories section of their website has mysteriously vanished! Strange that...