Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A rant on all your taxes

Universal benefits, what are they good for? I’d have said “absolutely nothing” but such benefits have become a mutated refund from a labyrinthine tax system, one that leaves us unable to calculate our actual tax burden or even an estimated average that you can trust. I like Paul Waugh’s description of child benefit as a token rebate for those where the benefit is their only ‘take’ from the state.

Judging any tax in isolation is completely pointless but it won’t stop childless people complaining that they subsidise the rest, or George Osborne on a similar tack telling us that it’s ‘unfair’ for the poor to subsidise the rich; I admire his chutzpah but he's talking complete bollocks. The chancellor is doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons and his real reason of course is to make any subsequent cuts more palatable. Such nonsense reminds me of the good old days of another kind of cut, a tax cut, and the obligatory interview with your average family who would lament “it’s not fair for others that we’re being given this money”. You’re not being given anything you idiots, they’re taking less away!

You can’t judge a tax by its name. No one believes that vehicle tax and petrol tax is spent on road maintenance or that it discourages us from driving. Despite this we’ve had numerous attempts at introducing another ‘green’ tax, a road tax; that would be three taxes that I’d have to pay to be able to do one thing - drive to work – all so I can pay more tax.

Contributing according to my means is a duty I gladly accept but I object to a deliberate obfuscation of how much I’m paying, whether it's through the creation of new taxes or additional taxes on something that is already taxed, and then throwing in populist ad-hoc universal rebates such as child benefit or even the winter fuel allowance. Removing the universality of child benefit is one tiny step in the right direction and a simplified universal credit system may prove to be another. Let me at least understand my liability rather than hide me from the truth.


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