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June 22, 2010


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Kay Tie

Of course there are tax fraudsters out there. Of course they need to be tackled. I just want to know what you think these billions are, because numbers on that scale show up in GDP figures, and if they are that big then someone knows about them, in which case they get some attention pretty quick. Even Gordon Brown spotted VAT carousel fraud. Eventually.

"Is it your idea of fairness that illegitimately unpaid taxes should not be a top priority for the government to enforce the law and collect."

There's no such thing as "top priority" in politics because as soon as you say "top priority" some other group complains ("What about child murders? Isn't that top priority?"). It's a question of enforcing the law as seriously as any other fraud or robbery, with the bigger numbers getting higher priority. Tax evasion of billions would be very high priority indeed.

"which reported in 2009 that Revenue and Customs were sitting on £28 billion of unpaid tax debt."

Ahh, so THAT'S what you're talking about. Yes, I've heard that some lefties are banging their chops about that. I think someone wrote something about it in the Guardian, hence the indignation. What they didn't understand was that this is DEBT, not fraud or evasion. It means taxes owed. This ranges from late payments of PAYE due to a business being in distress to millions owed when a big business goes bust. Of course the Government has to recognise this debt on its books: you can't write off debts without going through a long process, waiting for the insolvency to complete. Only then do you get a clear picture, and of course at any one time there are going to be many entities owing taxes. And you can't jump on a business for being late with PAYE: you might push it under and get nothing (in fact, the Goverment allowed PAYE deferrals in the financial crisis to let companies keep their heads above water, which will have led to a lot of tax owed).

Owing the taxman money is a million miles from criminal tax fraud you know. And I do think that the effort civil servants should be putting into getting millions from a dead business with no cash should not really be "top priority".

Every few years we hear about the "missing billions". It's nearly always down to a misunderstanding by amateur readers or dim professionals.

Do you really think that the Government twiddles its fingers while billions go missing that don't need to? Do you really think any minister would take the political pain of tax rises or spending cuts when the easy option of arresting fraudsters was available? Of course not.

Here's a handy checklist when any Guardian writer tries to sucker you again:

1. Have they understood the difference between evasion (tax fraud) and avoidance (deciding to do something that saves tax)?

2. Is owed tax late or missing? If missing, has it been stolen or has the person or company owing it gone bust?

3. Is the tax owed small amounts from lots of people or lots of money from a few people? If the former, it's not going to be "top priority" to chase up (for example, overpayments of tax credits will show up as tax owed, but few would say that hounding single mothers into penury over a few hundred quid is "top priority").

4. Is the "missing" tax determined by calcuting the due tax from multiplying the total income by the tax rate, leaving no accounting for tax-deductible things (like green investments)?


Are you truly delusional enough KayTie to not recognise that there is a hell of a lot of money that by law is required to be paid in taxes that is not being.
Are you suggesting for one minute that the government should not put adequate staff and resources to tracking down such monies and retrieving them.
Is it your idea of fairness that illegitimately unpaid taxes should not be a top priority for the government to enforce the law and collect.

You can and regularly do quibble with figures that disagree with your opinions
do you have some serious disagreement with the treasury select committee which reported in 2009 that Revenue and Customs were sitting on £28 billion of unpaid tax debt.

But I am sure those few billions, even if halved on the assumption of over estimation and halved again on the assumption that not all would be recoverable won't be enough billions for you to accept that fraud and tax evasion could possibly be genuinely keeping billions that would help towards balancing the budget, from doing so.

If civil servants being freed up elsewhere are not being assigned to chase these matters up, it will as I said before be a clear indication that the government is not at all serious about fairness, just as the previous government was not all that pushed about it either.

Kay Tie

"The fact that public finances were and are better than expected also gives the lie to the suggestion that New Labour, were not in fact being overly optimistic about the state of the finances."

That doesn't follow. It merely means New Labour and the OBR are equally optimistic. Personally, I'd say botht are delusional, but we'll see soon enough.

I also don't understand your point about missing VAT and income tax. Are you saying that there's massive undiscovered VAT and income tax fraud going on? It's true that VAT carousel fraud has cost literally billions but this has been bogus VAT refunds sucking cash out rather than VAT due that's not been paid. I'm not aware of anyone suspecting billions of withheld VAT (the numbers are so huge that covering it up would entail covering up huge amounts of retail activity that surely would be noticed). As for income tax, are you quite sure you haven't been reading the daft "missing billions" report by Richard Murphy, where things like pension contributions and income tax credits for investment in green energy are classed as tax evasion?


"That does not mean everything is just fine. In fact it means it's slightly less awful than expected"

What it does mean, is that it was and is at least erroneous or possibly even an outright fib, when Cameron said, public finances were "even worse" than they expected, when in fact, the situation is better than the previous right wing government announced it would be.
The fact that public finances were and are better than expected also gives the lie to the suggestion that New Labour, were not in fact being overly optimistic about the state of the finances.
A charge that was and is still regularly made by people with presumably little concern for truth.

No one however believed that public spending cuts and tax increases would not be necessary, the only real disagreement between all three of the staunch right wing parties was the precise timing of events.
The real test of this or any future governments determination to balance the books fairly will be the effort they put into seizing the millions and billions in unpaid VAT and Income Taxes, that in the best light have "erroneously" not been paid.

Kay Tie

"Office for Budget Responsibility said last week, the situation they inherited is actually better than was forecast"

That does not mean everything is just fine. In fact it means it's slightly less awful than expected. And boy is it an awful situation. Anyone who fails to grasp how bad it is simply does not have a grasp of the facts (and can be safely ignored).

The ideological split might ordinarily be between Keynes and the Austrian economists. But Keynes called for deficits in downturns using the surpluses from the good times. Gordon Brown ran a deficit through a boom, which means that debt is such a high proportion of the economy we have, in effect, hit our overdraft limit and cannot sustain a deficit without risking national bankruptcy.

The call for taxes to largely to fill the gap fails to understand that higher taxes take demand from the economy and lead to reduced activity, which if the taxes go too high leads to actually reduced revenue (trivially this can be seen with high rates of VAT: the price of something rises to the level where a customer decides not to buy it, leading to zero VAT revenue from that customer).

We all know that spending is at crazy levels. We all know that there are things being done which really are just a waste of time and money. Rather than cheese-paring all services we should look at what truly needs to be done by government. Does the Government really need to fund charities like Alcohol Concern or the New Economics Foumdation? Does the state really need to pay new mothers to use cloth nappies?

One last point: I have yet to hear contrition by Labour on this mess they created. No sane economist thinks that you should run a deficit during a boom. Other countries like Canada didn't do this and aren't in our sever predicament. We are I'm the same club as other reprobates like Greece, and we should not be listening to the urgings of those responsible for it.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Jonny. I think Peter Hain was spot-on with this comment.

Big cuts based on a big lie

THE scandal of this budget is that the poorest will be hit the worst. Increasing VAT to 20% will affect everyone, most of all pensioners and those in poverty. As the Financial Times has said, areas like Wales that rely most on the public sector will be hit hardest by the deep cuts announced to public spending.

Worse still, these big cuts are based upon a big lie: that the public finances are so terrible, the cuts must be faster and deeper than Labour's very tough deficit reduction plan which would have halved borrowing within four years. Cameron and Osborne have been deliberately scaring the public, with Clegg and Cable joining in.

But, as their own Office for Budget Responsibility said last week, the situation they inherited is actually better than was forecast as recently as Alistair Darling's Budget in March! Borrowing is £9 billion lower this year and £22 billion lower over the coming four years. Growth is higher and unemployment is lower. Business bankruptcies and home repossessions are half the rate of the 1980s and 1990s Tory recessions. This is all because of Labour's government action and investment to support jobs, businesses and struggling home owners which has left Britain much better placed than America or the rest of Europe to recover from the worst recession for eighty years.

These brutal cuts are ideological not economic, the new ConDem Government is not cutting savagely because it needs to, it is cutting savagely because it wants to.
One thing has certainly changed since Labour left office: the Eurozone countries - especially Greece, Portugal - are now in huge difficulty. Without Labour’s progressive influence, fiscal conservatism is now dominant in Europe, with huge cuts in public investment and jobs on the way. As President Obama has warned, this endangers the world recovery. It also means a downturn in the very market where a majority of our trade takes place.

So this is precisely the moment not to cut public spending savagely because it will put at risk the still fragile British recovery. Cutting deeper and faster repeats the mistakes of the 1930s, 1980s and 1990s when Tory Governments turned recessions into depressions.

John Maynard Keynes - a signed up Liberal - will be turning in his grave, not just at this damaging folly, but at the manner in which the Liberal Democrats have breathtakingly somersaulted, trading tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost in Wales (hundreds of thousands across Britain) for their own jobs in Government.

Nick Clegg, Kirsty Williams and even the once-saintly Vince Cable are now arguing the precise opposite of what they did in the election campaign just a few weeks ago. Big cuts based upon a big lie – a real tragedy for Wales.

Jonny Roberts


What was you take on today's budget?

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