Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Just Shut Up

It's always nice to find out whether people who talk rubbish are doing it deliberately. Or whether people who spin and twist things to their own agendas are genuinely seeking to mislead and misrepresent.

I was critical of a hopelessly misleading chart presnted by Eoin Clarke. Whilst he still deleted my comment about it on his blog, he commented here and asked for a bit of help with Excel so he could set the scale on his charts sensibly. Fair play, I say.

So today I am directed by FCA Blog to this post by Grande Dame - which is spreading (warning: bad swearing ahead) horseshit:

"98 of the top 100 grossing businesses in the UK DO NOT PAY ANY CORPORATE TAX"

Yes. She said that. She thinks it's true. It's so patently untrue I will not provide the links that prove it. Life is too short.

So, has Grande Dame just got the wrong end of the stick? There is, of course, a lot of misleading stuff about tax being put out there. Mr FCA, indeed, highlights a shoddy headline from Sky News. Is Grande Dame a victim of misinformation, or is she a cause of it?

Well when challenged by FCA, she responded with (I paraphrase) "blah blah blah read this piece in the Guardian". I read the piece in the Guardian. It did not back up her claim. So I thought I'd leave a comment:

It does not say anywhere in that Guardian piece that these companies pay no tax. It says that they have a presence in tax havens, some of which have 0% tax rates. That is not the same.

If you look at the accounts of any of those companies (and they will all publish them on their websites, look for 'Investor Relations') then you will see that they do pay tax. Lots and lots of tax.

Most of these companies do, indeed, use various fancy structures and wheezes to *reduce* their tax bill. That is not in dispute. Not all of the subsidiaries in tax havens are set up with that in mind (it's hardly beyond belief to imagine that a huge UK company might want to have a genuine presence in Ireland) but many are. Great... let's talk about whether these companies are pushing the law too far and decide what should be done about it.

However, let's NOT say they pay no tax. It's not true. It's absolutely objectively and proveably nonsense. It is not supported by your sources, and even the most rudimentary fact-check would tell you that. You're spreading complete misinformation.. how, precisely, do you think that helps further your objective?

I thought that was polite and constructive enough. Grande Dame deleted it. Grande Dame doesn't care about the truth. She's written something that is wrong. She's had it clearly explained to her that she is wrong. She's been told why she's wrong and how she can confirm that she is wrong. She knows that she's not an expert in the field (at least, I hope she does) yet she will not listen to anyone suggesting she reconsiders what she's said. Whatever she thought when she wrote the piece, she now knows that it's wrong and she has no interest in correcting it. At this point, the youth would say EPIC FAIL.

Now... I'm not going to stick up for companies who set up tax-dodge schemes. I think that they should pay tax wherever they do business, under the rules set out by whoever is in charge. I'd like the law to limit some of the tax avoidance opportunities that are out there. (Of course, I don't much like lots of our tax rules, nor what the money raised is then spent on... but, that's a side issue, theoretically this is a democracy and companies that trade here should subject to whatever rubbish setup the rest of us are stuck with.)

HOW AND EVER... the case for corporate tax reform (if one believes there is one) is NOT helped by people talking rubbish. No debate can be effectively won when one side is armed only with spin and lies. If you don't think that the truth can stand up for itself, then you're part of the problem.

EDIT: Whilst she's still being wilfully ignorant of the basic and irrefutable facts, it does appear that Grande Dame didn't delete any comments. My bad, n'all that.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Damn Statistics

I like graphs and charts. It's part of my job to use them to communicate data effectively. I try to do so clearly and fairly.. because there's usually nothing to be gained from hiding from the truth.

Eoin Clarke has done a chart here to show why Independent schools are much worse than comprehensive schools. As we can see, their GSCE results are much worse.

Oh.. but wait.. they're not. They're very slightly worse.. but he's used a deeply selective and misleading scale to make a difference of 0.4% look huge.

I did a chart using the same source data. But I added a second set, which shows the comparable GCSE results for the schools, but for pupils who got 5+ GCSE passes including maths and English. I'm not saying that this is a more telling indicator of quality.. that's for the reader to decide.

I've also used a selective and misleading scale.

Aren't comprehensive schools RUBBISH!

Here's another chart.. with a proper scale.. that shows the relative performance differences according to whether one thinks that Eoin has chosen the best measure, or whether ones thinks that we should take into account whether or not pupils can read, write and do sums.