Saturday, 7 April 2012

Politicians' Tax Affairs

As I blogged a few days ago, Ken is a lying hypocrite. He has carried out sensible tax planning whilst blasting anyone else doing exactly the same as a tax avoiding “rich bastard”. He has then compounded this by smearing Boris as a tax avoider, when in fact Boris has either generously or stupidly not carried out any sensible tax planning and actually paid more tax than he is required to under current tax law.

All the London Mayoral candidates have now released some tax information. Ken’s is incomplete, incorrect and designed to obfuscate his real situation.

But after the media upped the ante on this whole issue, Boy George has now said he is up for the debate on whether frontline politicians should publish their tax returns, as in the USA.

This is a bad thing.

A really, really bad thing.

Of course we want our politicians to pay UK tax. So it goes without saying that all UK politicians should be UK tax resident. So far so good. And we want our politicians to not be lying hypocrites - hear that Ken? (Let’s not get started on all those Lefties who rail against private education and quietly send their children to private schools. That’s another level of hypocrisy for another post). But there are some serious arguments against extending these two perfectly proper requirements to requiring all politicians to publish their tax returns.

1. We will never get the media and the Left to be able to understand the difference between tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance and sensible tax planning. The first is illegal, the second is unpleasant and successive Chancellors endlessly chase this problem through new legislation but the third is to be commended. We want people to work hard and they should be allowed to keep their hard earned income. It is a basic human right as far as I am concerned. So everyone should tax plan to perfectly legally and properly retain as much of their hard earned income as they can. Meanwhile, all governments have a terrible and endless track record of wasting taxpayers’ money and we should give them just enough to do what we need them to do and no more.

2. Direct comparisons of people’s tax affairs are very difficult. Much depends on many variables including your age, your employment circumstances, your attitude to saving/pensions/investments etc and of course each tax year is different with changing tax rates and changing individual circumstances. We would get terrible, wildly wrong and very politically partial analysis of politicians’ differing situations.

3. People just won’t understand the information. There was much coverage some time ago about Romney’s tax affairs in the States. What almost all commentators simply could not understand was that Romney was actually paying proportionally more tax than his competitors. They all wrote the story the other way around as they simply did not understand the complex information they were dealing with.

4. It is interesting that all those who always wank on about human rights are the first in the queue to want to take them away from people they don’t like. I actually think politicians should be allowed privacy, whether for their financial affairs or their family or whatever. If not, we will end up stopping normal people from wanting to become politicians, ending up with dull, squeaky clean automatons with zero personality, history or ideas. We want politicians who are representative of our society not homogenised dullards.

5. We would also effectively stop anyone who is successful (ie rich) from running for office. We need these guys exactly because they are successful. But why would many of them want The Daily Hate screaming about their personal finances? They would not put themselves forward.

6. Now for the most important reason. Yet more personality politics. This harks back to the issue of ‘intellectual elites’. How many of us can explain Boris or Ken’s exact policy on transport, the police, the City, air pollution, planning, the GLA tax precept etc. Yet we all know about their personal lives, their tax status, their families, their extra martial affairs blah, blah. We need to know much more about what our politicians plan to do and much less about what they are like. This issue is a growing cancer in our political system. We are becoming more and more like America on this and that is not good.

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