22 Nov 2011

Can capitalism survive without tax avoidance?

I am indebted to the Sunday Times for their introduction, last Sunday, to the contents of Number One Hyde Park – London’s most expensive and unoccupied address.

The paper concludes that in effect the apartments inside are either unsold or sold to people who don’t live there. In other words the paper reckons that building is, in effect, unoccupied.

But what gripped my attention was not its emptiness – it is a truly vast blob of an address at the top of Sloane Street in London’s Knightsbridge – but the registered addresses of those who have actually bought one of the £25m plus apiece pads.

According to the UK land registry, four owners are registered in Guernsey; four in the Isle of Man; 19 in the British Virgin Islands (BVI); two in Liechtenstein; two in the Cayman Islands; One each in St Vincent’s, and Monaco.

What do all these locations have in common? Yes, you guessed it – in one way and another, they are tax havens. What else? Twenty eight of these addresses are in locations over which the British have some sort of governing involvement.

Read more: Should the government target tax havens?

Yesterday’s FT led with an extraordinary report detailing the ‘jumbo directors’ who are piling up directorships in the Cayman Islands. Each of these directorships is worth up to £19,000 a year, the FT tells us. It is all part of the demand for independent directors for companies seeking to lodge their doings in the Cayman Islands. One man now holds 567 of these directorships in companies almost all of which are hedge funds. Four people hold over a hundred of these things. Fourteen people have over seventy of them.

Yesterday’s Snowblog questioned whether “socially useless” financial transactions should be banned rather than taxed.

Today I find myself asking what is being done in our globalised world to sort the parking of vast quantities of cash off-shore in tax havens over which the British, in particular, have so much influence? Is it a coincidence that Britain also hosts one of the three biggest financial trading centres in the world?

Can capitalism survive without opaque, sometimes criminal, activity? Can it survive without allowing the very richest to avoid tax in such a way that the gulf with the poor grows ever wider?

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60 reader comments

  1. Ian Brumpton says:

    Highly recommend “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens & the Men who Stole the World” by Nick Shaxson for anyone who wants to read more on Tax Havens, how they work and who they benefit, have a guess:)

  2. adrian clarke says:

    Jon,i believe Capitalism is the only way forward.It provides jobs ,innovation,the work ethic in an ever growing global society.It also provides the means to have a public sector paid for by the state.It provides a global market place for goods to be bought and sold,taxes to be raised.
    Unfortunately the system is wide open to the abuses you highlight.Abuses that could and should be curtailed.If as you state many of the tax havens are British controlled,why isn’t any government doing anything to close them.In a global banking system such assets could easily be frozen or consficated if there is a will to do so,or are those with the capability receiving backhanders?
    One wonders when the likes of Mandelson buys a multi million pound property in London ,where a politician manages to legally acrue such wealth.Where does Blair earn millions a year legitimately?
    What you have highlighted is the unacceptable face of Capitalism that drags a reputable system into disrepute.
    We can freeze and seize the assets of despots from other countries, it is time the same were done with these assets.Would there then be a need for austerity?

    1. Trevor Allan says:

      Adrian is right – this needs to be sorted. But I suspect that it has more to do with fairness than actually raising significant amounts of cash. We would still need austerity measures, but at least they would then appear to affect more people more fairly.

    2. Sam Goldring says:

      When I hear ardent capitalists extolling the virtues of this utopian ideology it seems to me what they are describing is the 1950’s in the USA, where people save some money or borrow it from families & start a small business, employ a few people and be self sufficient. This model is impossible today for 99% of people already half way through their lives with little to show for it.

      Capitalism provides jobs for some in the west but indentured servitude for most around the globe. It encourages innovation by making peoples basic needs into commodities that only some can access, such as long term care for the elderly or life saving drugs. It reduces the value of human endeavor typified by the culture of “human resources” which has homogenised personal identity, rendering people compliant empty and grateful for their sorry lot. If work were ever linked with ethics the satanic mills and call centers would grind to a halt.

      If capitalism is the sole enabler of the public sector how is it Cuba has the best health care, educates free to Phd level and has the most vibrant cultural on earth. Even capitalists dread the day when Mcdonnalds & Burger king reach Havanna.

    3. adrian clarke says:

      Sam how come Cuba has abject poverty.Few can afford motorised transport.Only the tourists can enjoy the country,and afford to be there.
      If that is your answer to Capitalism,you aught to live there.
      All us bloggers would have long disappeared into custody or never to be seen again

    4. Saltaire Sam says:

      I have not advocated Cuba as the way things should be. Why is it assumed that anyone who opposes the excesses of capitalism wants to replace it with Stalinist Russia or other extreme form of communism?

      All I want is a moral capitalism whereby the people who produce the wealth are rewarded as fairly as those who plan it or capitalise it. And that the wealthy contribute at least as high a percentage of their income as we mere mortals.

      That is currently not so. The head of the post office receives millions the postie, without all his plans are pointless, gets about £350 a week. I pay full tax on my income as well as the same rate of vat as Philip Green, but he feels it is right to avoid his tax.

      I don’t expect utopia but a bit more fairness would be welcome

    5. bryan sullivan says:

      it provides drudgery ,self financing slavery, and all the fruits of our efforts going up to the already over rich . Jobs should be about filling needs not incumbent on profits

    6. Citizen Smith says:

      Goverments are following the wrong path. Listen to this guy.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9641873.stm

      Jon …… interview this guy!

    7. TallPoe says:

      Capitalism is another word for slavery. Huge unpayable interest rates, a multidude of delusion and lies and 1% who own 40% of the worlds wealth and also waste rescources at an alarming rate in the name of free enterprise.

    8. TallPoe says:

      Capitalism is actually destroying jobs due to the fact that most workers have been replaced by more profitable machines. How many unemployed now, and rising? 2.62 million wasn’t it. And don’t mention the interest rates countries pay without even touching the original loan. That is free enterprise for you and is more in tune with psychopathism. And we are all responsible everytime we buy the new iphone without caring what happens to the old one which usually with its finite qualities ends up in land fill.

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    This is the biggest question facing our politicians because it is at the heart of who they really serve.

    If these tax avoidance schemes and other similar dodges were stamped out, the rest of us could pay less tax because it would add millions to the exchequer; or we could pay firemen, nurses etc a better wage.

    It would seem that our politicians are either unable to deal with this, in which case they are a waste of space. Or they are unwilling to deal with it, which is in fact more cynical and even worse than incompetence.

    Yet what can we voters do to change it? We can lobby but as we are not funding the parties the best we will get is a bland letter in reply. We can use our vote – but as all the parties are of a similar ilk, that’s useless.

    Abstaining is seen as indifference; spoiling the ballot paper as stupidity.

    The solution is a ‘none of the above’ box so we can really let them know they are not doing what we want them to do.

    If NotA won some seats in parliament, they would soon realise they have to change their ways.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire, i agree.See my blog above.
      There is an answer “old adversary” We could start the peoples democracy party together :)
      Perhaps Jon would like to Head and publicise it

    2. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      Sam , I don’t believe that you believe that more money in the pot would mean services actually get a better deal. The lies and misrepresentations which are spread . It would simply mean another amount of money could be redirected for the few.
      The facists are telling the public one thing and in actuality it is completely different.
      E.g a Nurse would get £ 34,000 two thousand more than present, with a pension of £20, 000. Wow I would be rich with the last figures. The reality is more like £15,000 without any pension because that is the way it is twisted.

      Highly qualified, experienced , intelligent Nurse , has given her life to the NHS patients for less than those on benefits. They mock us Sam and bring us down . They are thick , despots who make the rules to bend.

    3. Moonbeach says:

      I agree with your blogs, Sam. Perhaps the ‘Not A’ Party is UKIP.

      The Farage rant shown on

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/watch-nigel-farage-dance-euros-grave

      gets my vote and I suspect that many others would agree.

      How the lightweight Cameron can pontificate about democracy whilst ignoring the majorities in his own country is beyond parody.

      But be careful, Sam. Bankers and captains of industry do not have a monopoly on greed. Look how the Trade Union movement committed professional suicide and helped destroy our industries.

      Remember Red Robbo, big Arthur and the others!

    4. Tom Wright says:

      In ancient Athens, there was an annual election with a difference. Any voter could write the name of a politician they didn’t like on a broken piece of pottery and drop it off at the central market place.

      Every year the pottery shards or ‘ostrakoi’ were counted and the politician with the most votes got a ten year exile. This is where we get the word ‘ostracise’.

      We could do with something like that. My money would be on the end of Clegg’s career.

      Moonbeach I think you might be right about UKIP. I suspect they will take a very large chunk of the Tory vote at the next European election.

      The media demonises Farrage, but much of what he says makes good sense.

  4. Saltaire Sam says:

    Apart from the political aspect of this, we really do need to let these greedy captains of industry know that we won’t tolerate their excesses any more.

    George Mombiot has written an excellent piece in the Guardian (TUES) showing that much of the excess is funded by the tax payer one way or another.

    Reports today suggest that the salaries of top bankers which used to be around 13 times the average are now more than 150 times. And yet the bankers are delivering what for the last few years has been a disastrous service.

    Why are there not more protests? Why do so many of the British public get more exercised about a benefits cheat taking a few hundred quid than billionaire Richard Branson being handed £400m of our cash with his take over of Northern Rock?

    Somehow we have to let these people know it is unacceptable. But to do that we need more information which would be a better role for the media than hacking celeb phones. I no longer shop at BHS or Boots but where else should I shun?

    We need a revolution

    1. sue_m says:

      There are protests in the form of riots (self-defeating), strikes (presented by the govt and much of the media as selfish) and others like the Occupy sites. Unfortunately, the pr spivs controlling the UK and the right wing press have convinced much of the public that protesters cause the problems when actually people are doing the only thing left when their voices and votes are not listened to. Add to that the police kettling and other heavy handed tactics making people fearful of marching and how many are left that actually have the will and energy left to protest. The govt and their greedy capitalist masters rely on this combo of fear, apathy and sheer weariness to keep us on the treadmill that lines their pockets.
      We do need a revolution.

  5. Philip Edwards says:

    Jon,

    At this rate it won’t be long before there are dark mutterings in Brit “intelligence” services and Langley Nazi HQ that Snow has gone “Communist” or, gawd help you, “insurgent.” Of course if you go over completely to their side this will change to “neoliberal” and “progressive,” perhaps even “free trade globalist.” You might even get some of their “assets” on your case.

    Of course capitalism CAN survive without tax avoidance. You need only look at socioeconomic history before structured tax regimes were introduced. The problem then of course is that you end up with a totalitarian or feudal social system. In the modern era you need only look at Nazi Germany and the old “Soviet” Union. Concentration camps such as Guantanamo then become inevitable, as does the battering of dissidents.

    Fact is, it would be easy for the West to isolate and then eliminate “tax havens” and tax dodgers. But since most current legislators are bought and paid for, they won’t. Simple as. You know it.

    There can be no compromise with capitalism. It is rotten to the core and always will be. How much more proof do you want?

  6. Teresa Harding says:

    You should interview Richard Murphy the tax justice campaigner on your programme. He has been campaigning on these issues for a number of years and has recently published a book – The Courageous State. Channel 4 news needs to promote his arguments , the BBC News is running scared of the Tories.

    1. sue_m says:

      Yes, it is really sad to see an institution like the beeb presenting the govt’s case for them instead of objectively presenting the facts. Hard to find any media outlet that is politically neutral.

  7. Philip says:

    I’m seriously beginning to think that we need a new political party which promises genuine fairness in our economic & social arrangements in the UK. I’m not sure that NotA would do enough. You need real people saying what gets regularly said on the blogs here in public, so that the media have to repeat it & the politicians hear it. NotA doesn’t give them the focused message they need to hear. The question is whether any of us are energetic/brave enough to do it.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Philip when i was in my teens i used to say i would be a politician and Prime Minister.
      In the navy i was known as a lower deck lawyer,because i queried what i believed was wrong.
      In the Police i was Federation rep and a thorn in the sides of those that believed they could do as they wished.It ruined my career.
      Now i would love to stand on a democracy ticket, but i am too poor, too old and would not get the publicity required.
      I consider myself right wing, but this Tory party does not speak for me, though there are people within the party try to speak for the man in the street or populist views on some subjects.
      I do not believe/trust Cameron.He has lied over Europe,Crime,Immigration.I believe he is a Liberal and therefore likes the Coalition.As for the rest of the Liberals they mostly seem a set of “loons” that they were always depicted as.
      Philip the E petitions could have been a way to begin asserting democracy , but yet another of Cameron’s tricks to hoodwink the electrate.
      So it looks as if it is up to Sam to start our new Party :)

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Adrian, I can’t remember if it was Karl or Groucho Marx, but to misquote, I couldn’t possibly be a member of a party that would allow BOTH you and I to belong :-)

    3. adrian clarke says:

      Its ok Sam ,you proved on the previous blog , you only want to complain, not have democracy :)

    4. sue_m says:

      The problem with political parties is the members have to follow the party line. And that is often dictated by those who fund the party and other vested interests. Too easy for corruption to creep in sooner or later.
      What we need is more independent MPs but how can they afford to campaign to enter parliament? My idea would be to have an alliance funding and fielding candidates who can be left, right or whatever but who have committed to certain actions or policies that the public strongly desire. (Eg an EU in/out vote, a commitment to a written constitution, proper regulation of banks, proper vetting and regulation of public representatives etc etc). On all other matters they could have a free vote as per their constituents wishes or their conscience but alliance funding would be dependent on carrying out the basic commitments. This could be achievable if all those who signed one of Cameron’s fake pr e-petitions instead put £10 (or more) per annum towards funding such an organisation and we could get the mainstream media to give it some profile. C4 are you listening?

  8. e says:

    Not sure why you should question the survival of “capitalism” when discussing market practice. [It’s akin to bankers trying to shut down the debate by saying they’ll go abroad]. Market practice can change and develop in line with political/legislative choices as it always has. Are you really asking can neoliberal economics, which underpins current policy frameworks, survive without tax avoidance?

    When, way back, some will remember, the electorate were sold “there is no alternative” and “you can’t buck the market” the democracy that bought this belief didn’t have a knowledge and understanding of the specific technical analysis which informed these ‘principles’/this rhetoric. Few could have envisaged the extent to which “freeing markets” would allow wealth [and power over our institutions] to pass from workers to so few capital owners. And, how moribund our politics would become as a result. But we do now……

  9. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Its not fair , my directorship was for love and I ended up paying for all fraudsters with my house and every last penny plus the criminals debts.

    We have to distinguish between what is criminal activity, what is bending the law to suit the collectors of money and what is truly legal.

    Some may be rich , perhaps they have been lucky, perhaps it was their birthright which their ancestors fought hard to secure. We know that money makes money and it is so difficult to get out of social immobility, stopped not only by the rich lads bougeosie set , but also by the jealous peasants who scrap over a better gnome in the garden than mine mentality.

    It occurs to me that reducing tax loopholes seems a better way forward but is it?

    “Socially useless transactions” what do you mean by socially useless, for who does society comprise off?

    If again I take my own bad experiences, the money was stolen in the form of false transactions, fraudulent signatures and criminals who actually execute the law , so where do you fight legalities if the political sway says ‘anything goes’ for social parity.

    I changed my married name from Sloane. I was left definitely empty.Make the money work!

    1. Sam Goldring says:

      All people should be equal before the law. Yet our system seems skewed towards micro managing the petty behavioural dysfunctions of those who are considered an ‘eye sore’ by the ‘deserving’ rather than bringing the crooks and nihilists at the top to justice. It seems this is because if those at the top stopped nodding and winking to each other to preserve the old boy’s vested interests in the fiefdom, then the whole lot wold come crashing down exposing the true horror of how power and money has metastasised.

  10. sam goldring says:

    Capitalism can not survive as it is full stop. We’ve been living beyond our means for decades spreading nihilism and greed through out society. We are banking on growth for our economy to restart but we have depleted the finite resources of our plannet that if we achieved the levels of growth we seek we would destroy any chances of a redeeming future for the human race.

    We are stuck with a 20th century power structure that’s not fit for the 21st century. Everything that happens in society and politics is small fry to the financiers and oligarchs of the world who hold the real power. Everything government does seems to be with them in mind but they contribute seemingly very little to the world whilst propagating a system stacked in their favour, which makes it an imperative that their shady corporations guarantee the best results for their share holders at the expense of the dignity and even existence of the human race.

    We have to stop banking and stop buying for the sake of us all to effect any change because it wont come from established political processes that move so slowly they are barely noticeable whilst trillions in currencies dart around the world in milliseconds

    1. adrian clarke says:

      A psychiatrists view of Society!!!! No answers but a sure way to destruction.
      “Stop banking!!!” ie stop trading or return to a barter system.
      The answer can not be to stop banking,unless you want to go back to the stoneage,where it was just survival.
      The answer is to control banking and bankers.I hate to say it as a believer in Capitalism.The answer could be to Nationalise all British banks.

  11. Bob says:

    The problem is that the rich can go wherever they want and find the tax laws that suit them. In the past tax havens and legal loopholes meant that investing in certain areas would save them money. Today the government needs the money and it’s not as easy to be accommodating to the superich who will simply go to wherever they can make the most money rather than worry about a countries particular economic situation. The rich can pick and choose where they go and who they employ where as the poor are running out of rights. Employment protection, pensions, general rights and quality of life are all becoming a thing of the past. If the government can compromise the rights of the working class perhaps they can think about different ways to compromise the tax of the richest in society. In fact maybe the real criminals are the government we know who they victimise. The thing is 2.5 million unemployed but really 10 million on benefit. I think if we were to take off a few million of those for fraud that would save a few quid and probably push the unemployment figures up to at least 5 million – but instead we all pay more – that’s worth a tax haven of two. The situation is impossible really.

    1. sue_m says:

      It’s not impossible, it just requires will, determination and time. Something that most working people struggling to pay ever increasing costs of living simply don’t have.

  12. seven says:

    Shouldn’t we tell the Mp’s to reveal their income for the year and how much and where they pay their taxes

  13. Saltaire Sam says:

    Ian Hislop opened up an interesting question with his programme on Victorian bankers and the contrast with how some of them used their money compared to today’s bunch of self-serving thieves (I’m trying to remain objective!)

    Many of the examples he gave of bankers giving away fortunes were because they were driven to do so by their religious beliefs.

    For most people, me included, religion has lost its hold. Apart from not wishing to worship any god that would allow the tsunami, the actions of his/her followers (e.g. Catholic child molesters) long ago led me to dismiss the whole thing as hocus pocus.

    But it does raise the question, where does our morality now come from?

    Clearly it can’t be from the leading business execs.

    Nor the politicians.

    It’s a bit much to expect teachers to shoulder the whole responsibility.

    Parents are often too busy scraping a living or fulfilling their own life goals to give too much time to moral education for their children.

    And media pundits and the celebrities they write about are above such triviality.

    So where do we get our moral values?

    And am I becoming a nihilist in my old age?

    1. Sam Goldring says:

      I think the idea of ‘morality’ and how it applies to a secular society is too vague. Religion used guilt to install in people the idea that you ‘become’ a good person and that through understanding dogma you would have reason to be good.

      I believe If you strip away much of the societal conditioning acquired through out our lives you find that compassion and empathy are intrinsic to human beings, apart from a small few who inflict most of the wrongs in this world. It seems to me that the social darwinism engendered in neoliberal capitalism perverts many of the better qualities humans are predisposed to.

      I think debating logic and ethics from a neutral stand point rather than ‘morality’ with all its loaded meanings often lets people come to their own conclusions about right and wrong that they are much more likely to adhere to.

    2. e says:

      Interesting Sam as was Hislop’s program.

      He mentioned, but avoided dwelling on the fact that philanthropy cannot cure mass deprivation. Only the state using legislation and redistribution has proved powerful enough to resolve unfairness inherent within capitalism; and now every effort is being taken to “roll back” this duty still further. What else is there but nihilism?

      On the subject of shouldering responsibility for morality: over the years I’ve become increasingly irate at the hypocrisy which worries, bans and concerns itself with say television drama which in context explores “issues”, whilst ignoring the way in which the advertising industry and popular journalism has saturated our public spaces and debates with “whatever sales”.

      As a grownup, I believe it is obvious that if the public sphere within which parents, teachers, policemen and others work to develop a young person’s moral compass has become saturated with at best amoral messages, then their work will be more difficult and at times impossible.

      I’ve become an aging hippy moralist….oh dear!

    3. Bob says:

      I reckon our perception is shaped by the media and education as these are the two things that have either a direct of catalytic effect on collective consciousness. The era of theology is being replaced by a technocratic and education based understanding of the world. Actual true knowledge (much like religion) can only be understood is we apply a both an abstract and real world comprehension. In other word filter out the bull, cut off from the distractions or change the channel. X factor is todays Christianity. It’s not right but it’s convenient. The education for too long has preached a useless doctrine that has been un-reflexive to industry. Which is why we have a predominately white middle class education system. This also the same for like the ‘ruling classes’ in parliament and beyond. This is why I’m unemployed. This is why we have bureaucracy.

  14. adrian clarke says:

    What another can of worms you are opening Sam,even if it is very relevant.
    There is a complete lack of morals and moral teaching,from birth to the grave.The church has lost its power, and those religions that still hold power have lost the moral rights to exist. When an aged female peer gives a “V” sign in the upper house what chance is there?
    When politicians, lie and cheat ,where is the role model?
    When current role models are seen as “Rooney, Terry” or “Lady Gaga” is there any wonder there is a contemptous generation who believe they are worth £1000,s with no training, no expertise and no idealism.
    In a society where teachers are incapable of teaching the current generation to read and write,where parents have children without wanting to bring them up with good morals because they have none themselves,what chance is there.I do not buy the too busy scraping a living Sam.If that is the case do not have the children

    1. Sam Goldring says:

      I’m 32 and married, my wife and I have decided against having children as its usually the preserve of those who dont have the agency to manifest something harder to create. Also that I dont want to perpetuate the same cultural hegemony on another generation which is obligatory if you want your offspring so succeed in a neoliberal utopia.

      Are you saying the culture and specific role models we have are the problem? I’d say that there’s something inherently wrong with encouraging young people to form irrational attachments to ‘role models’ imagined into being by PR companies in the first place, we only create our gods to destroy them after all. Its not far removed from the lie of santa clause. The first notion of the adult world most kids encounter is realising that they have been lied to for six or seven years. If their moral guardian can be killed so easily and replaced by presents can we be that surprised by our social problems? The adult world is built from one neurosis on top of another.

      What we are missing are rites of passage that challenge and lead to epiphanies that unique to every individual as they grow and equally validated and respected by their peers and society.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Sam Goldring, thats great.At least your ideas die with you,as would the world if everyone followed your example.
      You obviously have no conception of a “role model”
      Young,developing minds often seek some,yes “irrational attachment” to those they see as achieving something they do not have. There is nothing wrong with that ,as that is how nature progresses.What is wrong is the models they choose to follow.
      At 32 you would have us believe ,your ideas are your own.Yet they have been cultivated through upbringing and education.God knows who was the role model for your ego,but it doesn’t work :)

    3. sue_m says:

      Oh Adrian you do make me laugh up there on your moral high ground. Not so long ago you were bemoaning the loss of the News of the World, that bastion of moral righteousness.

    4. adrian clarke says:

      Yes,sue, i suppose it is a laugh someone espousing morals.Perhaps that is why there are so few amongst our youngsters.
      How many times do you hear ,”it were just for a laugh” given as an excuse for criminal activity by those who should have been taught better?
      As for the NOW i stated it is a shame one of our oldest papers was lost .I would have the same views had it been the Gardian.That was in no way defending the phone hacking,which i don’t doubt many other papers got stories from

    5. Sam Goldring says:

      Rather a childish and analytically stunted response Adrian but unsurprising from a retired police officer, Britain’s biggest institution of flat foreheaded corporate enforcers who sponge off of the state and contribute little but national embarrassment. If they replaced even one police officer with a dozen windfarms on a nature reserve, it would go a long way to decreasing the number of British eye sore’s in aggregate. But unfortunately your mode of ‘under thinking’ is more of a ‘mind’s eye’ sore, the intelectual equivalent of a fungal infection: persistant, pointless and irritating.

      I’m sure your intelectual ancestors would have been mixing up the hemlock for Socrates circa 399bc. If you’ve not heard of him, he was a cleaver guy sentenced to death by half wits for encouraging the youth not to accept the inept stupidity of the ruling elders. But his ideas spawned exponentially, changing future societies in ways that his genealogy would not have accomplished.

      As far as the ideas i express I wouldn’t hope to “have you believe” anything I couldn’t care less. In my experience it is those who seek to question the ‘authenticity’ of others who lack in authenticity them selves.

    6. adrian clarke says:

      Well Sam ,a lovely piece that shows your true contempt for anyone or thing that is not of your supposed ilk.
      Someone who believes themself to be an intelectual above and knowing more than anyone else.Quite wrongly of course!!!!
      It is quite obvious you would be unable to hold down any job unless you were espousing your ridiculous comments.That is except as one of those moronic left wing union barons who somehow succeed in conning those they supposedly represent.

  15. Bob says:

    Well the thing is Sam challenging current belief systems leads to demonisation in society. Very few radicals ever get to have a greater effect on society because collective neurosis becomes the order of the day. The lie is worshipped, the righteous fall and in most cases they are damned, tortured or killed. In this digital era where social movements are defined by technology and style over content there are very few positive messages reaching our youth today. We have all become rats to consumerism and a decreasing amount of people can climb the ladder to bring about any kind of positive change. This is why globally the occupy movement exists, and pretty much ever sector of the public workforce is protesting. The thing is the liars at the top: our national santa clauses and false prophets do not have open ears. In fact they would far rather the oppression and increasing sense of societal fragmentation and ostracism than to actually intervene to stem the flow of this socio-economic state of western decline. It is much easier for them to pass to the next governmental whipping boy or sacrificial lamb that powers that be tend to create. Just another one sectioned -neighbours from hell.

  16. ewan london says:

    Lot of interesting comments. My 2p.

    Much has gone wrong in the last 50 years, over-easing credit, lying politicians, destruction of manufacturing, encouragement of financial sector, overinfluence of media barons, reduction of educational standards everyone gets an A but few are actually well educated, lack of effective representation, overuse of benefits, failure of role models – religious & other institutions, global warming, imbalance of power and so on.

    But on the other hand now we have access to fantastically detailed information if you can see the wood from the trees!

    At least we know what the problems are! My reply to Jon’s q is yes but we need to control avoidance and capitalism through effective regulation. There’s now a great need for this & an awareness of the problems therefore something may be done, but will it be in time and will it be enough?

    I believe it won’t be until things get so bad that the majority are moved to act. The only way it seems is to vote out ALL previously elected MPs.

    We need a people’s charter for a new No Party party. People following a popular vote winning manifesto against EEC/bankers etc to wrest power back from the political ‘elite’.

  17. Mudplugger says:

    There is a common perception that ‘tax avoidance’ is the preserve of the rich – but it is not so.

    Consider the ‘ISA’ account (and previous TESSA) – these are government-promoted savings schemes, aimed at the small saver, the principal attraction of which is that they are tax-free. So, from an early age and from low levels of wealth, people are being actively encouraged to seek out opportunities to make gains on which no tax is paid – I call that tax-avoidance.

    So next time anyone feels like attacking the ‘tax-avoidance of the rich’, first check your own investments – if there’s a hint of an ISA amongst them, then don’t rush to ‘cast the first stone’ because you’re just as guilty in principle as the so-called rich. The amounts may be different, but the game’s the same.

    1. sue_m says:

      The game isn’t really the same though.

      When you put what’s left of your hard-earned cash in an ISA each month, you most likely will have already paid your income tax on it. You then earn a small (currently very small) amount of interest as payment for allowing the bank to use your money to generate more wealth which (in theory) they then pay tax on. So you are contributing again indirectly to the treasury coffers.

      When individuals and companies avoid tax, they do that at the point before the income becomes liable for any tax at all. So billions of pounds are extracted from the economy into a small section of society without any tax being paid on it.

    2. Mudplugger says:

      That looks like a Guilty plea to me, sue_m.

  18. Saltaire Sam says:

    I was recently chided on this blog for criticising farm subsidies. I take the point made by several people that many of our hard working farmers are struggling in tough conditions and are squeezed by the big supermarket chains.

    But it turns out I had a better case than I knew!

    In his column today, George Monbiot goes into detail about who gets the lion’s share of farm subsidies.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/28/utilities-aristocrats-eu-agricultural-policy

    Among them are the overworked Duke of Westminster (worth £7bn) who receives £820,000 pa.

    And there are more: ‘The Duke of Devonshire gets £390,000, the Duke of Buccleuch £405,000, the Earl of Plymouth £560,000, the Earl of Moray £770,000. The Vestey family takes £1.2m.’

    And more: ‘As chairman of Northern Rock, Matt Ridley oversaw the first run on a British bank since 1878. This champion of free market economics and his family received £205,000 from the taxpayer last year for owning their appropriately named Blagdon estate.’

    Our polticians are opposed to a Robin Hood tax but happy to maintain its reverse.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Sam ,that is a typical obtuse piece of Guardianista.
      It frequently comments that we the British tax payer are paying these large estates,but it is the EU through the CAP that our governments have sought to change,unsuccessfully over the years that is forking out the money.
      Indirectly we might be paying through our taxes,but isn’t that yet another reason to leave the EU.There is also no indication for what the subsidies are paid,but Guardianistas are not bothered about that.
      If you want an argument on this subject it is not the subsidies but the tax avoidance that is the issue,and an argument for LVT

    2. sue_m says:

      Sorry Sam but i can’t leave it at that. You are right that a handful of already wealthy landowners will bag considerable amounts in subsidies but I am willing to bet that some, if not all, of them will use those subsidies to keep running their estates therefore keeping people in work as opposed to stuffing it in offshore accounts for their own greed as the corporate spivs and politicians do. Without the subsidies many estates wouldn’t be viable and would get sold to developers (and what would they do with the profits?).

      I am not defending the rich being given handouts – but trying to get some perspective. How many thousands of small farmers depend on EU subsidies to keep going given how poorly they are paid by the ‘markets’ (bullies in our food chain). Maybe there is room for some means testing but until farmers are paid a fair price for their produce we cannot abandon them to market forces as many would lose their land.
      Then Cameron and Osborne would have their mates in the building sector concrete over the fields before you could say ‘set-aside’.

  19. Saltaire Sam says:

    In a section on Northern Ireland in his excellent autobiography, Harol Evans quotes a line from W B Yeats.

    It probably should hang above George Osborne’s desk as a reminder that there are limits to how far you can push downtrodden people

    ‘Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.’

  20. Saltaire Sam says:

    Here’s a way George Osborne could increase his take from VAT and possibly even lower the rate to make it a fairer tax.

    Stop VAT registered companies from offsetting the tax they pay out against the tax they collect.

    After all, if I as a low paid individual, put petrol in a car, I am not only paying out of income that has already been taxed, I cannot reclaim the VAT.

    But a company can not only reclaim the VAT, they can offset the net cost against profits, so all in all their petrol is far cheaper than mine even if they are making huge profits.

    Very small businesses wouldn’t be affected because they are not VAT registered and the extra income could easily be used to help any medium sized businesses that would be badly affected. Meanwhile the fat cats in their chauffeur driven company cars, private jets etc would be contributing a little more.

  21. Saltaire Sam says:

    One story this week sums up how far our politicians are out of touch and how incompetent they are.

    The Speaker of the House of Commons not only commissioned a portrait of himself and a coat of arms, he also didn’t realise that it cost £42,000 rather than the £37,000 he announced.

    That’s about six years of my state pension and far more than the pension of a teacher that Cameron boasted was an improvement.

    These people have no idea what the real world is like

    1. sue_m says:

      He didn’t realise because the invoice was paid by you and me and all those tax-paying public sector workers.

      I am so glad my money goes towards something worthwhile.

  22. Saltaire Sam says:

    Let me see if I have this right:

    The tories are idealogically opposed to tax. One of their aims is to reduce the 50% rate on someone earning more than £15k pa

    But students, once they start to earn a mere £25k, will now face what amounts to an increase in tax to repay the cost of their education (which the current crop of politicians had free)

    And public sector workers face another 3% tax (and have to pay it longer) to keep part of the pension that was offered to them when they agreed their terms of work.

    George Osborne increased VAT to 20p in the pound even though that hits the lower paid – even those ‘taken out of tax’ hardest.

    Meanwhile offshore tax havens flourish, accountants only affordable by the seriously rich continue to find loopholes that ensure their clients don’t even pay full stamp duty, and incompetent HMRC officials tell vodafone not to worry about the odd £10m.

    So what we really mean is that tories are opposed to tax once you have enough money that it really doesn’t matter. I think that means their chums.

  23. Saltaire Sam says:

    Just watched the RBS documentary (sorry, C4)

    Why isn’t Fred Goodwin in jail?

  24. Saltaire Sam says:

    It was only a couple of weeks ago the government were telling us that the economy would be badly damaged because public sector workers were on strike for a day.

    How ironic, therefore, to learn that all those city slickers at Canary Wharf are unlikely to be able to get to work because of the Olympics.

    But presumably Cameron will overlook that because he’s in favour of the Olympics.

  25. Saltaire Sam says:

    I’ve just been struck by how modern the Christmas story is:

    Poor people with family problems (wife pregnant, not by husband – if it were today, the NoW would be tapping phones)struggling to pay their taxes.

    Meanwhile three ‘wise men’, believing they can gain important influence, bring valuable gifts – not unlike so many of our own dear lobbyists.

    As a result of rulers’ fears, children are persecuted – see recent Autumn statement.

    Happy Christmas :-)

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