Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Have your say…?

July 22, 2015

“Have your say on the Finance Bill” is the headline on the Parliament website.  The Finance Bill went through its first and second readings in the Commons and is now to be scrutinised by the House of Commons Public Bill Committee.  Question for scholars: does anyone have an example of a Finance Bill being amended as a result of a submission to the scrutiny committee by a member of the public?

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Autumn Statement of Get Knotted

December 3, 2014

They weren’t even trying, were they? Couldn’t be bothered even with the minimalist adjustment to the visual of getting a woman to sit in the “doughnut” around the Chancellor. You could kind of see a woman’s elbow, some of the time, in the top left hand corner of the screen. Someone wearing the kind of blue suit that Margaret would have worn in her heyday. You could print out a screenshot and flog it as an allegorical artwork of the Dead Hand of Thatcherism.

Yes, well, I was watching it with The Women’s Budget Group, wasn’t I, so maybe I noticed these things more than usual. (Disclaimer: this blog post represents my own personal view and not the WBG’s. The WBG’s can be found at http://wbg.org.uk)

But really, wasn’t that the theme? Aside from the puerile insults, the smidgin of good news for orchestras, children’s TV and picturesque worthy causes, the usual promises to cut tax avoidance… The rest was machismo.

Big butch infrastructure projects. A Northern Powerhouse. Ken-doll hard-hat projects that will give good photo op.

Yes, the infrastructure needs some work. But not just the physical infrastructure: the civic infrastructure. The carers need more money and stable employment, not a morsel of NICs relief for their employers. Yes, businesses need rates relief. But local councils need the money to employ carers and social workers and keep the libraries and the sure start centres and the lunch clubs and the care homes open. Yes, householders need a sensible stamp duty system, but renters need security of tenure, reasonable rents and certainty of repairs – and some more houses available to rent and buy at reasonable prices wouldn’t go amiss, too.

The one attempt to spike the feminist guns was the early claim that the gender pay gap was closing. Well, yes, I suppose it is – there’s downwards convergence. Men aren’t getting cost of living rises and neither are women. So we all get poorer but we’re all poor together? Um, I hate to break it to you, boys, but that’s really not what we had in mind!

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Update

January 17, 2014

By the power of twitter,

turns out that the Budget Representations page is now open.  Thinking caps on!

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Guest Bloggery: Most Wanted

November 12, 2013

This is a guest post by Banderillero.  Welcome!

I must admit I did not pay a lot of attention to the list of Most Wanted Tax Fugitives when it was published.  But I have just read an update from HMRC which said the following:

A convicted cigarette smuggler who featured on a list of Most Wanted tax fugitives this summer has been found.

After being named on HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Most Wanted list, Michael ‘Arthur’ Fearon, 21, from Newry, handed himself in to the authorities in Northern Ireland. He is now in HM Prison Magheraberry serving a sentence for tobacco fraud.

… Donald Toon, Director of Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Fearon thought he could go on the run to avoid facing justice – but he was wrong. We relentlessly pursue tax fugitives and ensure they face the consequences of their criminal activity, and after over a year on the run, Fearon has done the right thing.”

(read the whole report here )

So we can now sleep more safely in our beds, with this high profile criminal safely behind bars.

Except …

I then read the “More Information On The Case.

And it transpires that:

At the time of his arrest Michael was a boy of 17, who appears to have been working in a warehouse which was raided.  There were millions of counterfeit cigarettes, and lots of people working at the warehouse.  Most of them fled, but the youngster, Michael, was caught.

He was tried for smuggling – but as he ran away before the trial it seems that the trial went ahead without him and he was “found guilty in his absence”.

Having been made such a high profile criminal, he has decided that life on the run is not for him and he turned himself in and was promptly locked up.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not condoning criminal activity.  But it seems to me that as a teenager (and legally still a minor) Michael got a job working for some counterfeiters.  On a scale of serious criminal activity I would not put this very high – and I don’t really think that it does HMRC’s work on tax avoidance justice by highlighting this lad as one of the Most Serious Tax Avoiders in the UK.

But I would be interested to know what others think?

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A week may be a long time in politics, but in TAX???

June 6, 2012

So, it’s off with the union jack nail polish and back to work. A week in the States, a couple of days’ jet-lag and then the long bank holiday weekend… Did you miss me?

I had a couple of emails from the admirable They Work For You site while I was away, including one which notified me that David Gauke was announcing a consultation into the taxation of controlling persons (following the review into the tax arrangements of Civil Service appointees)  I’m going to have to come back to that one later in the week.

There was also a new version of the Tax Consultation tracker published on 31 May.  Oddly, it doesn’t seem to contain the Controlling Persons consultation… but it does now contain 22 “due to be published in June” consultations.  Um… weren’t there 22 “due to be published in May” consultations in the last iteration?  What happened?

No, seriously, I’m not just being amusing at the expense of my former colleagues.  Seriously.  The government intended to publish no fewer than 22 consultations before the end of May and now it has put them off to some time in June.  Why?  Has there been some change of heart?  Is it a political reaction to the idiotic “U turn on pasty tax” headlines?  (Altering your plans as a result of consultation is a feature, not a bug!  Say it with me!)

Or is it the result of a lack of resource in HMRC?

Anyone?

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Blogging against disablism day 2012

May 1, 2012

As today is Blogging Against Disablism day I thought I’d take a break from looking at tax measures and, instead, give my personal experiences of disablism.

Wait a minute, says the pedant in the corner, you’re not “disabled” – and what is this “disablism” thing anyway?

Disablism is to people with disabilities what racism is to people who are any other race than white and sexism is to people being disadvantaged by their gender.  But while most of us will remain the race and gender we were born with, most of us – whatever our health and ability – will wind up with some kind of disability in the end, if only by way of age.  My own problems are a minor hearing impairment and a dodgy back that makes climbing stairs a problem.  I’ve just taken early retirement so I don’t have to wrestle with the question of whether or not to register myself as “disabled” on the Civil Service’s personnel systems but believe me I angsted over it for some time over the last few years.

Getting a back supporting chair was an absurd struggle but at least I had a supportive physio who, ten or fifteen years ago, wrote a stern letter which said something to the effect of, buy this woman a decent back-supporting chair and she can work; don’t, and I’ll keep signing her sick certificates and by the way have you worked out how much sick pay that will cost you lately? Once I’d actually obtained the chair, a succession of supportive managers meant that I managed to keep the chair.  (I wonder where it is now?  Because, you know, they have rules that mean when you leave you can’t buy the chair from them and take it home.  No, it sits in the “furniture available for someone else to use” room until they give up and pay someone else to take it away!)

So the back?  Fine.  The hearing impairment?  Not so much.  It’s only a mild impairment – the hospital audiologist apologised and said that, although I would benefit from a hearing aid, the NHS no longer considered me impaired enough to provide me with one, and I either have to get deafer or buy one myself…

My job was in London but the last three or four years of my career I also worked remotely from Sheffield.  And there were lots of things that might have made my life easier and saved wear and tear travelling up and down.  Ninety per cent of the job could be done by email and online; the rest was face to face meetings and telephone conversations.

Which is fine.  A one to one phone call gives me no problems.  But conference calls…  It’s entirely useless to have one speakerphone (and so only one mike) available in a room with twenty people in it.  It’s entirely useless to have a presenter say “I don’t need to use the mike, do I?” so he can privilege his need to bounce around the stage being spontaneous over my need to, you know, hear what the hell he was talking about.  It’s entirely useless to have a “four corners” event where the “buzz” of activity – of everyone talking at once about four different things at the four corners of the room – is preferred to the old fashioned syndicate room where the four different conversations are, well, audible.

I could go on.  But my point is that I’m a pretty assertive middle aged battleaxe of a tax inspector and even I got tired of reminding people that I couldn’t hear what they were damned well saying if they dropped their voice like that.

And I guess that’s all I’m saying.  If there’s a binary “disabled/not disabled” categorisation (not that I think there is, but that’s a whole other story) then I sometimes think of myself on one side of the line and sometimes on the other.  But if it wears me out trying to hear what people are talking about, how tiring must it be to live with something more disabling than that?

I only once (or at least once that I can recall – feel free to remind me of others in the comments!!) blew up and had a full scale row with someone, when I had asked three times for people to speak up in a large meeting in a room with bad acoustics, and in the end threatened to walk out altogether if it happened again.

No-one should have to take the nuclear option.  If someone explains to you that they can’t hear what you’re saying, see what you’re writing, get to the room up the stairs, sit for the length of the meeting – stand for the length of the meeting [coughs and makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like “Pacesetter”] – then please adjust your behaviour.

To all the people I have encountered in my working life where I have failed to do this, please accept my apologies.  A failure doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; it’s like having snot hanging from your nose.  Once someone points it out to you, by all means get embarrassed.  And then use a hanky, wipe your nose – and try not to let it happen again.

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Third time lucky…

March 27, 2012

…counting down to the site launch next week.