A rather depressing Telegraph online headline today reads “Nick Clegg goes after the ultra-rich” . Nick Clegg has apparently recently “uncovered evidence” that our tax code is too complex and that complexity is benefiting tax-lawyers and the super-rich.
“The Deputy Prime Minister says he has uncovered evidence that hundreds of millionaires are paying a tax rate of less than 20 per cent on their earnings by using an “army of lawyers and accountants……. A wide array of tax loopholes and reliefs are exploited by the wealthy to reduce their tax bills, leading to them paying overall rates on annual earnings beneath those faced by ordinary workers, he said.”
“Uncovered” really? Good grief – where has he been for that last couple of years ? Here is an article from Mr Littlewood (formerly of this parish) now of the Insititute of Economic Affairs back in Autumn 2010.
“Early this year, an IEA research paper showed that with over 8,000 pages of primary legislation – in very rough terms about six times the length of War and Peace – Britain has the longest tax code in the world. For those inclined to believe that other Western European countries are always more bureaucratic than Britain, it was worth noting that the German and French tax codes weigh at a comparatively modest 1,700 and 1,300 pages respectively” Mark Littlewood: Telegraph 8 September 2010
Then again one year later Littlewood said it again …
“The Tax Commission research points to the incredible length and complexity of our tax rules as the principal culprit. Tooley’s corporation tax guide, for example, has nearly trebled in length in the last decade. It now has a word count not dissimilar to the complete works of Shakespeare. The TPA amusingly illustrates the farcical scale of our tax code by showing that one of the fastest readers on the face of the Earth would take five days to read it out loud. Goodness knows how long it takes to understand it“. Mark Littlewood: IEA blog 16th August 2011
Er.. And again a month later…
“The UK’s tax rules are now so complicated and lengthy that British businesses spend around £20bn a year simply trying to comply with the rules . Not handing over a single penny in tax, just filling in paperwork and attempting to calculate their liabilities. That’s an overall cost of around £300 for every man, woman and child in this country every year.
“Things are getting worse, not better. When a country’s tax rule book is five times longer than the complete works of Shakespeare – and growing – you can only expect this kind of ludicrous waste and inefficiency. If the laws of association football were this long and confusing, you’d probably need hundreds of referees at every game and it’s doubtful the sport would be viable at all” Mark Littlewood: Mail On Line: 29th September 2011
Littlewood’s answer to the problem – simplify the tax code by employing best practice from other countries. That (according to Professor Philip Booth (IEA)) would save about £5billion in regulatory costs but also disproportionately assist small businesses being crippled by the burden. It would, of course, also eliminate a lot of the highly complex loopholes much beloved of the rich.
Clegg’s answer to the problem – introduce another tax! If it was April the 1st I would be laughing. It isn’t and I am not.
Any chance that Clegg’s bizarre approach to this (much-publicised) problem is connected to a certain event being held in Gateshead this weekend?