CREATIVITY

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William Pitt the Younger has written from an address in Downing Street in response to our request for new items that might be taxed: "In order to pursue with success my campaigns against the Tyrant Buonaparte, I propose the raising of additional funds bythe imposition of duties upon, First, Male and Female Servants; Second, upon Hair-Powder; Third, upon House-Windows, and Fourth, upon Private Conveyances. Should these prove insufficient, I have it in mind to lay a tax upon incomes above a Certain Level, though I do not anticipate this continuing beyond the conclusion of the present emergency. Desperate measures, Sir, for

desperate times."

The most popular items to tax were fresh air, bad grammar errors and unscooped doggie poop, and a variety of levies called "sintax".

Michael Rubinstein offers a detailed manifesto for grammatical malfeasance, ranging from £1,000 for a misprunt, via £3,000 for a solecism (or is it solipsism?) to £100,000 for "every unkind reference to, or photograph or cartoon of any member of the Royal Family". He must mean that half-witted prince and his dumb wife.

Ian Laing proposes a tax on politicians' cliches: "measured on the Portillo scale". He believes that repeated utterances of "And I've made it perfectly clear" could, on their own, get rid of the National Debt. Geoffrey Langley envisages a three-stage cl i che tax imposed on specific words and phrases. He begins with "in real terms", "figures show" and "we have no plans to", then encompasses the words marvellous, wonderful, fantastic, exhilarating, arguably and lyrical of food writers, before institutinga third tranche on the use of French words where English ones exist. The benefits include a sharp rise in revenue at election time and a demonstration to the French that we can be as crass as them.

RJ Pickles suggests a per capita charge on cubic metres of air consumption. Tiny airometers could be inserted into the trachea soon after birth, connected to a visual display unit located in the side of the neck to facilitate meter readings. This would become a value-added tax when linked to Elspeth and Charles Speirs' idea of extending the television licence fee to cover VDU screens. They also suggest a Windows Tax on software.

N James suggests a poverty tax could be beneficial, since it would discourage people from being poor. A similar idea occurred to B O'Riley who abandoned it on realising that we have a poverty tax already: "It's called the National Lottery," she says. Donald Nicolson, however, proposes a "Reverse Lottery" with ERNIE making a random selection from National Insurance numbers and imposing a scale of fines. He stresses the vast public interest such a scheme would attract and huge boost to popular morale, "there's nothing like the prospect of another's misfortunes to raise one's own spirits."

Brian French proposes a tax tax on people who already pay tax, on the grounds that they can afford it. In his scheme the poor will not be taxed but accumulate personal non-taxed fiscal points, which must be repaid, with interest, when they, or their heirs, have money.

F Blagarnie proposes taxing radio phone-in quizzes, though he says: "Prime Minister's Question Time will continue in as present, and lobbying charges, even if at a premium rate, will not be taxed." Jessica Williams simply says: "Perhaps the Government could tax our patience some more."

Stephen Woodward proposes sin, tin, carpet, thumb, hearty and tick taxes as well as an earthworm tax to help reclaim our share of the continental shelf. He also wants to tax the word "tax", which would help the Government impose more without anyone mentioning it. Steph and Paul want a tooth tax; Len Clarke suggests taxing the number 42.

Prizes to: William Pitt the Younger (if he'll tell us where to send it), Elspeth & Charles Speirs and Donald Nicolson.

This week, we'd like to hear your creative ideas for Christmas crackers. Three prizes of Chambers Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions to the best ideas. Entries, by 28 December, to Creativity, Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

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