Archive for the ‘Red Nose Day!!!!!’ Category

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The Money Tree

March 15, 2013

“Dave, you’ve got to stop telling people about the Money Tree.”  Dave sat back in his chair and smiled the smile of the well-fed and contented.  “I thought it was a good line,” he said.

“Well, yes, but…”

“The first rule of the Money Tree is, you don’t talk about the Money Tree,” Nick smirked.

“That’s Fight Club, Oikey, and… It’s not true.  George.  Tell him.”

“Um…” George said, looking a bit shifty. “Look, where did you think we were getting £375 billion from for Quantitative Easing? Conjuring it from thin air?  I mean to say!  Why do you think there’s half an acre of walled garden outside guarded by the bloody SAS?”   Nick and Dave both looked like they’d been slapped in the face with a wet kipper.   George carried on, in the tone you’d use speaking to a couple of small and rather backwards children, “I go out into the garden on Tuesdays with a couple of the SAS lads, we fill a wheelbarrow, and then the boys backpack it round to the Bank of England. I thought you knew?”

“But… but that’s fantastic!” Nick said, bouncing in his chair.  “If we’ve got an actual, real, money tree, well there are no limits.  We could… abolish student loans altogether and reinstate student grants!  Abolish the bedroom tax without even bothering with a mansion tax!  Increase pensions by RPI instead of screwing them with CPI.  Increase benefits by the rate of inflation!  Abolish ATOS and give disabled people what they actually need instead of what we think we might be able to afford if we don’t mind a few of them living in squalor and poverty…  OMG we could have full employment!  Build council houses!  Take people off the dole and give them actual jobs, doing stuff!!!”

George pressed the panic button and the nurse came in with Nick’s sedative.

“Right,” Dave said, looking grim and determined.  He strode from the room and George hesitated for a moment, torn between the fun of watching Oikey fitted with his white jacket and worry about what Iggle Piggle might be getting up to.  Then he heard the garden door open and ran.  Surely he was just grabbing his own wheelbarrow, right?

“Stand back!”  Faced with a direct order the SAS men had no choice.  George was yelling “Noooooooooo!” but Dave’s hand was already on the axe.  “Do you really think,” he grunted between strokes, “that we were screwing the poor just because we’d run out of cash?”

 

So there we have it, my tenth and final post contributing to Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s #twittermillion effort for Red Nose day.  If you have enjoyed it, or any of the others, I’d be hugely grateful if you’d click here and donate a few quid to help people in need both in Africa and here in the UK:  https://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/wendybradley.  Thanks so much.

 
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Let’s speculate

March 14, 2013

Let’s print our own money.

It’s not quite as wacky as it sounds.  I’m sure we’ve all heard about local trading schemes like the Brixton Pound, where people in a single location set up a complementary currency with the twin aims of boosting the local economy by keeping goods and services and money in circulation, and of boosting local trade at the expense of faceless multinationals.  And, yes, there are lots of different local schemes using variants of barter systems where people trade skills, shelf-building for plant-watering (The classic example is the infamous Baby Sitting Co-op)

Well, I propose we invent a national complementary currency.  I haven’t come up with a groovy name for it yet, so in my head at the moment I’m calling it groats.

Here’s how it works.

You work one hour, you get one groat.

Basically, that’s it.

Well… there might be a little more to it.  Let’s do another thought experiment.  Let’s imagine the National Minimum Wage isn’t just £6.19 an hour.  It’s £6.19 in GBP and *1 in GBG.  Six pounds nineteen and a groat.

Suddenly everyone on the minimum wage has twice as much discretionary spending.  They can use their pounds to pay their rent and buy food, and spend the groats on beer and fags.

No-one will accept them?  Well where are Tesco and Sainsbury going to get the groats from to pay their workforce next week?  In week one the government will give them as many groats as they would need to pay a week’s wages based on their last PAYE return.  In week two, they’re on their own.  So firms will take groats, because they’ll need them to pay their own workforce.

There’s an imbalance?  Well there are two ways a firm (as opposed to an individual) can get groats; they can get them from customers in exchange from goods and services, or they can buy them from the Government GroatQuango (GGQ)  Where they might be rather expensive…

For an individual, though, it’s simple.  You work an hour, you earn a groat.

Wait a minute, what about pay differentials?  Does the teaching assistant get paid the same rate of groats as the Minister of Education??  In a word, yes.  One groat = one hour’s work, whether you’re Waynetta Slob or Wayne Rooney.  Don’t worry Wayne, you’ll still get more cash per hour, but only the same number of groats.

What about people without jobs?

That’s easy.  The Ministry of Works will provide you with as much work as you desire.  Walk in off the street, talk to the helpful person behind the counter, and within fifteen minutes you’re guaranteed to walk away with something useful to do, for as long as you want, for a groat an hour.

Oh, didn’t I say?  The Ministry of Works doesn’t pay minimum wage.  It ONLY pays in groats.  These are jobs that are useful but not necessarily economic.  You might find yourself picking up litter or planting bulbs on your local grass verge, or reading to a child in your local school or a pensioner in a local care home.  You might be on the counter in a local charity shop or temporarily helping supplement overworked regular staff answering the phones in a government office.  You won’t be taking the job of someone on a proper job, the kind where they pay wages as well as groats, but you’ll get as many groats as you want, or at least the number commensurate with the number of hours you want to work.

Groats, needless to say, would not be taxable.

Like I say, I’m just speculating.  Is the redistribution of wealth any more reasonable or desirable than the redistribution of work?

This post is the ninth of my ten sponsored posts in aid of Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s #twittermillion effort for Red Nose day.  Again, I’m very grateful to everyone who’s sponsored me thus far… and for those who haven’t got round to it yet… https://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/wendybradley.  Hint hint!

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You can’t say fairer than that

March 13, 2013

Two interesting press releases land on my desk simultaneously today.   (Well, the emails in my inbox… you get the idea)

First, from Christian Aid, there is this email with the results of some polling they have done, where their headline is that a third of the population are already boycotting some businesses products or services because they perceive the business’ tax planning to be “unfair”.

I find this enormously cheering.  Because, although tax professionals have been standing on Cape Brandy for years and saying that “there is no equity in tax”, it appears that the perception of fairness is something else.  Multinationals may have done nothing wrong – in the sense of, nothing which is illegal – in their tax planning, but they are being perceived as acting unfairly.  And losing customers as a result.

Secondly there is this press release from ARC, the union of senior members of HMRC, where they remind us of their Budget submission of costed plans for reducing the tax gap by £8billion for an investment of a further £300m in HMRC.

Unlike Christian Aid’s concern, this isn’t about changing the way companies are taxed to make the tax regime fairer.  It’s about collecting what’s already due under the existing legislation that the rest of us have to abide by.  And you really can’t say fairer than that, now can you?

 

 

 

This post is the eighth of a promised ten Red Nose Day sponsored posts.  Again, thanks to all who have donated so far.
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Death and taxes

March 12, 2013

You may remember my wish list of ten tax changes I’d like to see this year.  I had an exchange on twitter immediately afterwards where a fellow tweeter wrote:

@taxbod Maybe that’s item 11: a wish that people would stop panicking about death duties. If you’re rich enough for them to hit, be glad?

So let’s think about that for a bit, shall we?

First thing to remember about inheritance tax: you never pay it.  Think about it.  You’ll be dead.  You’ll never pay a penny.  The money comes out of your estate, but you’ll be dead, so why do you care?

Controversial?  Yes, I know, I’m a single, child-free, middle aged woman so I don’t understand what it is to have children and to want to leave my wealth cascading down the generations.  My children are only theoretical, and I’d like my theoretical children to get on with their lives without waiting for me to die and leave them a house, actually, but, again, I accept these are only theoretical children so what do I know?

So let’s look at what would actually happen to my putative estate and my theoretical children.  They’d get my house and the money in my bank accounts and my collection of first edition Lois McMaster Bujolds and what would it amount to?

Well, would it amount to more than £325,000?  The Land Registry says that the average house price is around £162k although the BBC makes it 100k more.  So your house is safe, unless you have something amazing or you live in London.  And if you have enough dosh in the bank to take you over the limit, well, you’ll have to pay inheritance tax out of it.  You might have to sell my collection of first editions to pay it, even; but I’m sorry I still find it hard to get excised over the possibility.

Oh, and by the way my putative children might also have a theoretical father in situ, don’t you think? Well the good news is that the inheritance tax limit is transferable so effectively we’d each be able to leave the theoretical kids up to £325,000.

Why on earth should some people start out in life with £650k when others start with nothing?  (Remember one of the first things the coalition did was abolish Gordon Brown’s Child Trust Fund which would have given every child a paltry £250 capital sum to start them off saving)

So forgive me if I can’t get too excited about death and taxes.  I’ll be dead, and when I am you’re welcome to a chunk of what I leave behind.  And if you’re lucky enough to have more than £325k when you pop off, I hope you won’t begrudge the same.  Because, you know, we really ARE all in this together, actually.

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RTI, UC, and 42

March 11, 2013

If you’re earning, you don’t pay tax on the first £8105 of your wages – around £155 a week.

The aspiration is that this will go up to £10,000 – around  £192 a week.

If you’re employed on the minimum wage (which is £6.19 an hour – allowing for a 37 hour week) you’ll earn 228.29 a week and pay tax on £73 of it.

If you’re unemployed, you’ll get JSA of “up to” £71 a week

And if you’re on the state pension, you’ll get “up to” £107.45 a week.

OK then – let’s look at what happens if you are unemployed and you are offered a few days work – something seasonal, say, like fruit picking, or something short term and semi professional, like a data entry or translation job that only has a few days work attached, or perhaps you’re a semi-retired barmaid or a waitress and you occasionally cover for absence at the local pub or restaurant.

Let’s think about it from the employer’s viewpoint for a moment.  Either they use an agency and let the agent handle all the recruitment and payroll business – all you need is a specific number of bodies who can carry out a specific task after all – or else you do it yourself.  You pick someone you’ve used before, perhaps, or someone you know, and you pay them along with your other payroll and you process the payment at the end of the month along with everything else.

This year, along comes Real Time Information, RTI, where you are going to have to tell HMRC about the payment at the time you make it, even though you know your unscrupulous rivals are going to be tempted to bung their Friday night replacement barmaid a few quid in cash in a brown envelope and say no more about it.

Now there’s been a certain amount of kicking off about this in the accountancy and payroll press but then there always is when there’s a major change.  Either it’ll work or it won’t, and if it doesn’t then there are existing systems that people can fall back on.

But look at it from the point of view of the employee.

What happens at the moment if you’re unemployed and you’re offered a few days work?

Well, you “sign off” and – apart from the few quid you get for your fruit picking – you get nothing until you’ve managed to “sign on” again.  And it could be six weeks before your benefits come back on stream.  So you don’t take the work, because you can’t afford it.  A few days work might leave you penniless – literally penniless – for over a month.  You don’t have savings.  You don’t have mummy and daddy and a trust fund to fall back on.  You might wind up homeless, or having to get food from a food bank and a loan from a loan shark.  Or you work “cash in hand” and don’t mention it to anyone, and spend months or years worrying that you’re going to be penalised as a “benefit thief” and wind up on the front page of the Daily Mail.

There has to be a better way.

Universal Credit was supposed to be it.  Doesn’t look likely, not if you believe what you read in the papers, anyway.

So let’s do a thought experiment.  What would we WANT to happen, in an ideal world?

Personally, I’d like to see the tax threshold, pensions and benefits aligned.  So if you were working we’d move away from you not paying tax on the first £10,000 to giving you £10,000 but taxing you on everything else.  And if you were a pensioner, you’d also get £10,000 a year automatically.

And if you were out of work?

Well, you’d still get your £10,000 a year.  Only it would be on a daily, not weekly, basis.  £10,000 a year is £27.40 a day.

OK then.  You’re unemployed.  You sign on, and you’re paid £27.40 a day.  (Why not?  It’s going to be paid direct into your bank account anyway, and £27.40 a day is no harder to transfer than a £822 a month)

You pick up a day’s bar work.  You fill in the box on the claim screen that says you’ve had a day’s work.  The screen shows a smiley face and the words “congratulations!”  And you still get £27.40, because, well, everyone does, and as well as that you also have your money from the day’s bar work, less the tax which was taken off under RTI before you were paid.    But actually you wouldn’t NEED a claim screen, or to tell anyone you’d earned any money, because for tax and benefit purposes you’d be in exactly the same position as someone earning the minimum wage OR someone on an MP’s salary – you’d have your Citizen’s Income as a fall back, and you’d also have whatever earnings you could find, net of tax which was paid before it came to you.

So work pays – the money you get for working is yours to keep on top of  the £10,000 a year that everyone gets anyway.

Yes, I’m talking about a citizen’s income.  More specifically, replacing the tax free personal allowance with a Citizen’s Income.  Abolish means testing, tax credits, benefit caps, universal credit, JSA, pensions, tax free allowances and just give everyone ten grand a year.  And tax them on everything they earn above that.

 £10,000 is about £42 a working day  (take 10 bank holidays, 52 weekends and two weeks holiday off of 365 days and you get 241 days.  Let’s cheat, call it 240, and then round it up.  It IS Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday, after all)  There are currently two and a half million people out of work (1.5 million on the claimant count) supported by 29.73 million in work.  There are about 400,000 unfilled jobs.
Personally I’m very relaxed if the two million people for whom there ARE no jobs spend their time watching Bargain Hunt on forty two quid a day.
This post is the sixth of my ten Red Nose Day sponsored posts.  Thanks again to all who have donated!
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Fine

March 9, 2013

The thing that struck me about this article (on A&E failures that led to a fleet of ambulances being out of action) was the prospect of the trust in question being fined for its failures.  How, I wonder, will that help?

So I tweeted the link, and said that in my opinion

Fines are a stupid response to A&E failures – more resources and better management might actually fix them

but I was immediately challenged (I love twitter!) with

Ah.  Well, let’s think about that.

It seems to me that the reported failures in hospital care are down to two main possible causes: bad management and lack of resources.  So if you haven’t got enough money to hire enough staff (so they’re too busy to do all the stuff that needs doing) or to pay them a decent wage (so they’re too stressed or too sleepless from overtime or second jobs to do all the stuff that needs doing), then fining the organisation isn’t going to help.

I mean, obviously you wouldn’t want to GIVE money to failing trusts just FOR failing, because that would encourage people to game the system by failing deliberately.  But equally you don’t want to take money from failing trusts just FOR failing, because sometimes the failure will be caused by LACK of money.

I don’t know how to fix the NHS, but making sure it has the resource it needs, and having some kind of community oversight of the management to keep them on the right track  (like school governors oversee schools) seems to me to have a better chance of fixing it than fines.

As for the banks… well, they’re supposed to be about competition and capitalism, red in tooth and claw.  I’d out-compete the bastards.  Take RBS properly into public ownership and then give it to a quango on the BBC model, with instructions to (a) take deposits from anyone who can prove their identity (and, note, their identity, not their credit-worthiness – unless you’re going to reintroduce the Truck Acts, and don’t get me started on THAT one!)  (b) pay them 5% on the money deposited, which you make by (c) lending to small and medium sized enterprises, and the individuals wanting to buy houses, at a reasonable rate, fixed for the life of the loan.  Competition would suck deposits into the BBC Bank unless the other banks upped their offering accordingly, and a management with pay dependent on doing their actual job (and not on pretending they were in a casino) would make better decisions about lending.

But what do I know?

Um… that something isn’t working, and we ought to try something different?

 

This post is the fifth of ten posts I intend to write between now and Red Nose day.  I have now reached my £50 fundraising target :a big thank you to everyone who donated (and pre-emptive thanks if you just haven’t got round to it yet)

 

Note: edited 11/3/13 – corrected category of entry from “uncategorised” to “red nose day” and added item (b) the proposed rate of interest for the “BBC bank”, renaming the lending priority to (c).

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Work in progress

March 8, 2013

Come on, HMT, tell us what’s happening with the tax tracker page which you STILL haven’t updated (85 days and counting!) since 14th December.  If you’re putting your updates somewhere else, then will you please archive this page and put a damned link to the new one?

Oh, but everything will be wonderful once all government websites migrate to the gov.uk site.  Let’s have a look for tax consultations there, shall we?

OK then, we’re on the front page.  Now which of those headings do you think would cover open consultations on tax?  Let’s try… money and tax?  Hmmm.  Well that offers us six further options:

  • Court claims, debt and bankruptcy
  • Income Tax
  • Inheritance Tax
  • National Insurance
  • Self Assessment
  • VAT

which doesn’t look good.  So how about (going back to the first options page) “Inside Government: learn about government departments, policies, announcements and more”  That looks more promising.  Let’s go there.

Yes, there’s HMRC on the list of non-Ministerial departments.  So let’s go the HMRC home page.

OK, some stuff about RTI, that’s good, that’s up to the minute.  Scroll down.  Five picture windows, three of various “HMRC names tax cheats” or publishes prosecution details.  Well, OK, warn off the miscreants.  One window about child benefit disclaimers, OK, probably what lots of people are looking for.  And a new item about HMRC getting an award from the Prince’s Trust.

Scroll down a bit more.

“What we do”

Scroll down

Our policies

Scroll down…

Yes!  Success! “Our Consultations”:

Our consultations

Um… you know you’ve linked to the two CLOSED consultations, right?  Although the “see all of our consultations” link takes you to a gov.uk page which lists the same two OPEN consultation as on the HMRC site, but has different closed consultations…
Let’s try just putting “HMRC consultations” in the search box on the gov.uk first page… which gives you a list of results, but the first of them is this page which purports to list ALL government publications.
Work in progress, then.
(Um… does anyone actually KNOW where the 2013 Finance Bill clauses out for “technical consultation” are or were published?  Anyone?  Bueller???)
This post is the fourth of ten posts I intend to write between now and Red Nose day.  I have now reached (and in fact exceeded) my £50 fundraising target so a big thank you to everyone who donated.  And if you’re still getting round to it… my JustGiving page can be found here.  And thanks again!