Sunday, 16 June 2013


Pat comments, over at Tim Worstall:
.. the Government is very much to blame for surrendering to the Left’s ghastly narrative at the first possible opportunity. Without a good political counterbalance this tax nonsense will continue to run further from common sense. One just hopes the general ineffectiveness of Government will prevent any real damage.
.. whilst Ben Saunders delivers a professional's analysis of the Fair Tax Mark:
Rather than making me want more tax disclosure, it makes me feel like we should have less. It appears that tax campaigners are unable to understand the tax disclosure notes already published. I have very little confidence in them understanding even more data.
Let's address Pat's notion that the government should be providing 'counterbalance' to the increasingly extreme reaches of the current 'tax justice' movement. That comment, I should point out, is in response to outrage about what a (full) tax-paying company has done with some of it's post-tax income.

The problem for the government, and for Pat, is that there is nothing at all to be gained for the politicians by criticising the fair tax movement. That war was lost as soon as the public mood was captured. We saw, with the banking crisis, that people want (maybe even need) a bogeyman. Ideally, a rich one. Corporations are perfect. They are largely faceless, and their alleged misdeeds will, inevitably, involve big numbers. Indeed, the bigger the better.. hence we hear a lot about the billions they generate in revenues, even though profits (pre or post tax shenanigans) may be small or non-existent.

If the politicians come out in support of the companies then they are siding with 'big business'. And so the debate ends. Nothing they say about jobs and investment and services will counter the simple 'I have to pay all my tax, so should they' retort. Cameron's 'we're all in this together' soundbite is, well, biting him on the arse. But even if he'd not said it, the situation would be the same.

The government has two options. They can cede to the campaigners and see what happens.. knowing that if the results are bad for the country it will be their fault, but if they are good then the credit will go to everyone but them. OR, they can say the right things to the camera, whilst (and this is regrettable) carry on, privately, doing what they believe is right. Richard Murphy will continue to shout that the actions are not in accordance with the words, but such is is politics there's no avoiding that. If, in the background, the government and the market can bring about a steady movement away from the more egregious end of the avoidance spectrum then the mainstream media will lose interest and no harm will be done.

So what about the 'Fair Tax' mark? Well, it's another example of what the politicians are up against. How do we think it plays if they criticise it? It's a devious corruption of a notionally good idea. Perhaps the government should have seen it coming and, with the fanfare they command, got there first with something a little more fit for purpose? But it's really not their place to provide a kite mark over and above compliance with the laws that they have made. Margaret Hodge can grandstand about fairness and morality from the safe position of someone with no power or remit to enact laws that would enforce it. Cameron and Osborne won't have that luxury until after the next election.

What we need for the Fair Tax mark is, insofar as is possible, is the silent treatment. We need no acknowledgement from government, and (perhaps more importantly) none from the companies that it targets. Even those who manage to score highly. The overton window has shifted far enough towards the worldview of a few statist extremists and political opportunists.

Richard Murphy believes that provision of full employment is a core requirement of the state. His list of things that the government shouldn't provide to the proletariat is limited, and he's still not keen on anyone making much profit thereon. So it's fair to conclude that he's, at best, ambivalent to the private sector as a whole. On that basis, I'd caution against *any* private enterprise engaging with any of his whims. Even if Amazon and Starbucks are your enemy, he is not your friend.

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