“Tax land” from Islay

Always nice to get away from things for a while.  Islay gives you a different perspective.

Tax has only featured in three conversations here and as each also mentioned whisky I felt that made it acceptable.  The general sentiment seemed to be: “Islay gives a lot to the UK Exchequer every year and we get very little back in return”.

One person I spoke to told me that: “Islay’s whisky industry contributes approximately £100 million a year to the UK government in excise duty and value-added tax.”  To put that into context, and if that figure is correct,  that is about £30,000 for every man, woman and child on the island.

The main tax stories of the past week have a familiar feel to them.

The debate over devolving complete control over corporation tax to the Scottish Parliament has continued.  This week saw HM Treasury predicting doom and gloom if such a thing were to come to pass.  More ammunition for those wanting to see a Scottish Exchequer.

In a connected issue, Scotland’s First Minister said that the oil industry should be consulted on any new changes to offshore taxation.  The background to this is the proposal by the UK government to increase the supplementary charge on oil production from 20 to 32 per cent.

The other major political tax debate also rumbles on.  That being the top rate of income tax.  This still feels like a “phoney war” but you also get the feeling that a formal start to hostilities might just be round the corner.  The main warring parties in this case being the coalition partners of the UK Government.

This week saw twenty economists (makes you wonder what a group of economists is called), in a letter to the Financial Times, urging the UK Government to drop the top 50p tax rate.  They claim it is doing “lasting damage” to the UK economy.   The top rate is paid at 50p for each pound earned over £150,000 and affects around 310,000 people.  Opponents say cutting the top rate at a time of cuts would be “monstrously unfair” and “phenomenally immoral”.  UK Government Ministers continue to hedge their bets by saying that the 50p rate is temporary and that their policy is to first increase the income tax threshold to £10,000.

Although not as widely reported as the two issues above, I did like the council tax news item from the Courier.  The report explained how funds raised by increasing the council tax on second homes had helped to pay for affordable housing projects across the Perth and Kinross Council area.

In February 2005 Perth and Kinross Council agreed that additional money collected by reducing the council tax discount on second homes and long-term empty properties could be used to support the development of affordable housing.   The Council  reduced the 50% second home discount to 10%.  The reduction covers around 1,800 properties.

Back to the mainland tomorrow!

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