Where to start? Tax and morality seems as good a place as any.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien has accused David Cameron of acting immorally by favouring the rich ahead of ordinary citizens affected by the recession. The cardinal also denounced David Cameron’s opposition to a “Robin Hood tax” on financial institutions. Those arguing for a European financial transaction tax have gone a bit quiet recently. The cardinal’s interview has though brought this proposal back into the news. Whether a tax such as this is introduced is though only part of the debate. As with most taxation debates the secondary debate involves how the revenue should be spent. The cardinal would like it spent helping the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad. Others want an emergency fund for the next banking crisis. An article from the BBC new website on this can be found here.
Now to the London mayoral debate. Included in Boris Johnson’s manifesto for a second term is a proposal to set up a commission that would explore the possibility of a “Barnett” style formula for London. Johnson wants to keep more of the tax raised in London to be spent in London. An article on this from the Guardian can be found here. This is further evidence of how quickly the fiscal powers debate is moving.
The Scotland Bill has received its Royal Assent. An article on this from the BBC news website can be found here. A missed opportunity? I think so. That said, even under the Scotland Act (2012) we are going to have a Scottish tax system. I am of course looking forward to the Scottish Government’s consultations on the tax powers being devolved but why stop there? It is surely now obvious that we need to start thinking about the type of tax system we want. That must include a review of all government tax, law and registration services and the creation of a Scottish Exchequer.
Good to see an article in the Herald on something I have written about recently. Businesses in new Scottish enterprise zones will be able to claim up to 100% business rates relief as part of new incentives to stimulate investment in the economy. Other measures announced by the Scottish Government include more efficient planning procedures, improved broadband, targeted capital allowances and international marketing. The article in the Herald can be found here.
Another article from the Herald, this time on an “unprecedented” number of business rates appeals. The article reports that court cases have been launched by retailers in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Kirkcaldy and elsewhere as firms contest the size of their rate bills. The article from the Herald can be found here. The main argument being used is that the current rates were calculated in 2008, before the extent of the downturn became apparent.
For those of you interested in tax statistics, the relevant HMRC page can be found here. For those of you interested in tax consultations, current HMRC consultations can be found here and current HM Treasury consultations here. There will be many more consultations added over the next few months as the UK Chancellor in his Budget made reference to approximately 45 consultations.
Approximately 12,000 people who had been told that they no longer needed to fill in self-assessment tax forms have been sent penalty notices in error. To put this in context, 130,000 people were taken out of the self-assessment process for this tax year. Some 850,000 people were sent penalty notices for failing to submit their tax returns on time this year. This is 550,000 fewer than a year ago. An article on this from the BBC news website can be found here. As mentioned in this article it is likely that “HMRC’s resources” played a part in this latest error.
Nearly 60,000 more Scottish pensioners than first thought will be hit by the UK Government’s decision to freeze age related personal allowances according to new figures published by HM Treasury. The figures show the so called “granny tax” will impact 423,000 pensioners in Scotland by 2015-2016. The article from the Herald can be found here.
David Cameron has backed proposals for an “airline levy” to ease waiting times at London Heathrow Airport border control. Airlines using London Heathrow would pay higher landing fees to pay for additional UK Border Force staff to help remedy the long queues currently occurring. You would be forgiven for thinking there was an election in London this week. The UK Government is not making many friends in the airline industry just now. The spat over increases in Air Passenger Duty continues. More information on this can be found in an article on the BBC news website found here.
Now to Europe and the “debt crisis” debate. Financial Times journalist, Gideon Rachman continues to argue against European countries trying to spend their way out of their debt crisis. This is a quote from his article: “There is, of course, scope for argument about the pace of deficit reduction. But in a highly-taxed, highly-regulated, highly-indebted continent like Europe, more state-funded public works would simply build another road to nowhere”. The full article can be found in the Financial Times on 1 May.
I will finish on a matter I have blogged on before. More than 2,000 public sector workers could be avoiding the full rate of income tax through special contracts, UK Government research has found. An article on this from the BBC news website can be found here and my earlier blog here. This is an incredible figure as it does not include those in the NHS or local government. Danny Alexander is seemingly “shocked”. It seems that “shock” is becoming the default reaction for UK Government Ministers. You may remember George Osborne’s was also recently “shocked” at the extent of tax avoidance. Tax and morality it was ever thus.
Have a good weekend. “Tax land” will be back in three weeks time.