Given it is local election time I think the level of funding for council tax benefit is an appropriate place to start. The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have decided to provide £40m to make up a shortfall of council tax benefit funding. An article on this from the Scotsman can be found here. The figure that stands out is the 558,000 people in Scotland who receive this benefit.
The Confederation of British Industry has denied that big companies are benefiting from “sweetheart deals” with the taxman. HMRC has faced criticism over alleged secret deals with the likes of Vodafone and Goldman Sachs over unpaid tax. The CBI briefing note is well worth reading and can be found here.
The campaign trying to make the UK Chancellor think again over the latest increase in air passenger duty continues. The latest claim from this group of aviation and business organizations can be found here in an article on the Herald. Part of this claim is that overseas tourists have been put off coming to the UK during the Olympics because of punitive air taxes. The group says bookings from Australia and New Zealand are down by 25% compared to the same period in 2011.
The furore surrounding the UK Chancellor’s tax relief cap and how it might impact on charities continues. I liked this opinion piece found on the website of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations. The piece can be found here. Although I see the need for tax caps and/or investment limits in certain circumstances, for example under the Enterprise Investment Scheme or Venture Capital Trust relief, I would be surprised if this policy in its present form survives the summer.
It seems that mortgage lending rose sharply in March as buyers rushed to complete sales. The stamp duty land tax exemption for first-time buyers who bought homes valued at between £125,000 and £250,000 came to an end after two years on 24 March. The UK Government do not think that this relief has been effective in increasing first-time buyer numbers. A report on this from the BBC news website can be found here. I continue to be surprised that our politicians fail to campaign for a change to the 1% and 3% stamp duty land tax rates and bands.
A study by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed that 3,000 council employees across the UK were paid six-figure sums in 2010-11, a rise of 13 per cent on the previous year. The highest paid was in Glasgow where Ian Drummond, formerly executive director of special projects who has since left the post, received a £450,628 package. Reports like this confirm the view held by some in the private sector that our local authorities completely lost the plot over senior salaries. An article on this from the Scotsman can be found here.
Scotland appears to be moving towards charging shoppers around 5p every time they use a plastic bag. This if often referred to as a “plastic bag tax”. Scottish ministers have again indicated that it will consult on the matter in the near future. Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland already have such a charge. It does seem that the Scottish Government is dragging its feet on this. A plastic bag tax was thrown out by MSPs during the last parliament when Liberal Democrat Mike Pringle tried to push through a 10p levy. An article on this from the Daily Express can be found here.
A tax fraudster, who fled the UK four years ago after telling a judge in a note that he was unprepared to go to jail and found the idea frightening and upsetting, has been extradited from France and is beginning a six year prison term. Mark McGovern had pled guilty to laundering £278,340.87 of criminal proceeds in April 2008, following a wider HMRC investigation into VAT fraud. More on this can be found here. I would have thought that most people would find the thought of being locked up frightening and/or upsetting. Not surprisingly that is not a good enough reason to avoid being sent to prison.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown that the UK Government has met its borrowing target for the year, despite borrowing more than expected in March. An article on this from the BBC news website can be found here. Worryingly these figures also show that most of the cuts to public spending have yet to be made.
Now to the USA and the announcement of a dramatic increase in citizenship renunciations. According to Internal Revenue Service figures, at least 1,800 Americans renounced their USA citizenship in 2011, an all-time record at eight times the 2008 number. The main reasons given are the USA’s worldwide taxation system, the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts rules and the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act regime. An article on this from the Daily Mail online can be found here. The USA is one of a handful of countries to tax its citizens on income earned while abroad.
Then there were two. Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France’s presidential elections. The tax and fiscal policies of the final two candidates, in particular Hollande’s, have received a great deal of international press coverage. An example of this coverage, from Bloomberg’s Paris correspondent, can be found here.
Now to a Budget statement from 1940. “New British budget announced: higher income tax, increased duty on alcohol, tobacco & matches, to raise an unprecedented £2bn for war costs.” Thanks to @RealTimeWWII. Notwithstanding duty on matches interesting to see how little has changed.
Finally I was very sad to hear of the death of Stephen Maxwell. I got to know Stephen very well over the last few years and he is a great loss to those arguing for greater fiscal powers and the wider independence movement. A real gentleman at all times.
Have a great weekend.