James Daley: They've got to pick a pocket or two

We've all heard the tragic stories of people turning to crime in desperation when they run out of money. Petty theft, burglary, perhaps even armed robbery – anything to make ends meet, which will prevent them from having to admit to their pecuniary failures and suffer a loss of face to their families and friends.

But I honestly never thought I'd see such behaviour from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister – two men for whom pickpocketing their loyal supporters seems now to be an ordinary part of day-to-day life.

Although they would surely command more respect if they simply fessed up and admitted that they'd accidentally got themselves into a terrible financial situation, they continue to insist that the public finances are in a healthy state while persisting with their petty thievery on the side, stealing a few extra pounds from taxpayers whenever they're not looking.

Over the past few weeks, yet another handful of sneaky revenue-raising tricks have been uncovered in the small print of the Finance Bill – the document that brings the measures announced in the annual Budget into law. And, once again, it has been left to opposition MPs and the media to explain the full repercussions of these measures to the public.

One to emerge this week was the news that people who have overpaid tax will now only be able to reclaim it as far as four years back. This may sound like time enough, but when you take into account that almost half of all tax reclaims go back over six years, you begin to realise that this is no less than robbery. This is, quite simply, not the Government's money to take.

Worse still, many of those who overpay tax are pensioners, who have perhaps ended up on the wrong tax code through no fault of their own. It often takes the intervention of a family member to point out the error, and in these cases it is quite possible that the overpayments will go back more than four years.

To add insult to injury, this year's Finance Bill also contains new measures to increase the penalties which the HM Revenue & Customs department can land on taxpayers who don't pay enough tax. Although there is currently considerable leeway for people who underpay tax accidentally, the new laws will give the Revenue the power to hit even those who completed their returns in good faith.

Both of these new measures are sure to leave thousands more taxpayers losing out at the hands of the Revenue's own incompetence. Many of those who do not file their taxes correctly do so because the Revenue makes the process so mind-numbingly complex. Equally, most of those who overpay tax do so because of Revenue errors, not their own.

Then there's the changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax to you and me), which will more than double for some families next year because their cars are not eco-friendly enough. This might be fair enough if they'd bought the cars yesterday, but many of those who will be hardest hit bought their cars years ago – without any hint that they might get landed with a super-tax somewhere down the line simply because they chose the wrong model. Environmental taxes should be used to change people's behaviour, not to penalise them for decisions they made years ago.

It's bad enough that a Prime Minister who made his name on economic competence is now presiding over an economy that is sliding towards recession. But we are where we are. Brown and Darling need to stop the bluffing and pickpocketing and start being honest about their initiatives to fix the public finances. Their reputations can't get any worse, and – who knows? – honesty might just win them some respect.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea