Friday, 22 February 2013

Naming and shaming

HMRC published yesterday a list of the names and addresses of tax defaulters which it defines as:
...people who have received penalties either for:
  • deliberate errors in their tax returns
  • deliberately failing to comply with their tax obligations
 And where:
  • HMRC have carried out an investigation and the person has been charged one or more penalties for deliberate defaults
  • those penalties involve tax of more than £25,000 
However, their information will not be published if the person earns the maximum reduction of the penalties by fully disclosing details of the defaults.
No everyone is happy about this though:
Richard Murphy, of Tax Research, said the list was ‘plain, straightforward hypocrisy’ which was simply ‘identifying plumbers and hairdressers when it should be naming global corporations’. 
‘The people named are easy targets. There are clearly different categories of tax crime, with small businesses who put cash in HMRC’s pockets named and shamed; but banks, wealthy lawyers and global corporations offered anonymity.

'It seems that only little people pay tax and only little people are named and shamed.’
To be clear, these are people who have evaded tax and failed to come clean when investigated, with all avenues of appeal exhausted.

Murphy also states on his blog:
Builders, coach operators and hairdressers feature, but no one, rather oddly,who looks as though they might go near transfer pricing or intellectual property, even though HMRC say they collect billions a year investigating such issues.
Those on the list in question have lied about their tax position and there's a big difference between this and outcome of a disagreement over the tax treatment of a transaction falling in HMRC's favour.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Coalition success on tax avoidance

On 8th December last year, members of UK Uncut protested at various branches of Starbucks due to their "tax avoidance practices". Here's one of their banners:

That's a pretty large figure for avoidance but there's some good news; it has come down:
Margaret Hodge: tax avoidance costs the Treasury £5bn a year
The exchequer loses at least £5bn a year because the taxman is failing to crack down on "morally wrong" tax avoidance schemes similar to the one used by comedian Jimmy Carr, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee warns today.
A £65bn reduction in under three months is quite spectacular and the coalition government should be congratulated on this achievement. Or instead, perhaps we should be taking UK Uncut to task for telling fucking lies again.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Fizzy drinks and fruit juice

Hot on the heels of this, we now have:
Fizzy drinks should be heavily taxed and junk food adverts banished until after the watershed, doctors have said, in a call for action over obesity.
 Eh? I thought that half of the population was starving and relied on food banks. Silly me.
Its [The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges] recommendations include:
  • A ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
  • Further taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20%
  • A reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres
  • A £100m budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery
  • No junk food or vending machines in hospitals, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools
  • Food labels to include calorie information for children
My bold. Perversely, pure fruit juice with all the nice vitamins and natural sugars that go with it, attracts VAT at 20%, just the same as fizzy drinks full of corn syrup. Now despite extensive lobbying by Innocent, ASDA, and the British Soft Drinks Association to get the rate of VAT reduced, nothing ever came of it. Of course it would never occur to politicians that making a good thing cheaper would benefit more people than making a bad thing more expensive.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

More burning of our money

Towns handed £100,000 to save their ailing High Streets in Mary Portas rescue scheme 'have squandered cash on Peppa Pig costumes'
Say the Daily Mail. OK, I sort of understand where they are coming from - they want a draw to the high street, get the families in spending money and the kids get entertained by a popular cartoon character. Everyone is happy but...
Elsewhere, Dartford Council spent £1,160 hiring a person in a Peppa Pig costume, £317.46 on items from Waitrose, £5,983 o newspaper surveys and £1,317 on surveys.
The spokesman said: 'The council hired Peppa Pig for the day as it's a proven way to draw in families to events.'
£1,160 for a day? How on Earth have they managed to spend that much? It's a bloke in a costume for goodness sake. To put that in perspective:

Two lowish grade council workers, one in the costume and one acting as a minder, both on double time - £300. Peppa Pig costumer hire £25. Total - £325. 

Of course, it's very easy to spend money frivolously when it's not your own.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Labour Language

Guido Fawkes on Order Order says:
The so-called “bedroom tax” will see tenants in social housing who are deemed to be under-occupying their homes lose part of their housing benefit. See the difference? 
The “bedroom tax” is not a tax at all, but actually a welfare transfer. If you are under-occupying your social housing you do not have to pay the state any money, you will simply receive a smaller handout from the taxpayer.But then Owen, and Kevin and Ian and Ed and Rachel all knew this already.
And he's right, but consider this also; Labour are using the word tax for a good reason. If they say that they will reverse the "bedroom tax" they are trying to imply that they would be cutting taxes. What they would actually be doing is maintaining or increasing welfare payments. Now which spin on it is more palatable to the voting public I wonder?