James Daley: They've got to pick a pocket or two
Saturday 14 June 2008
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.
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
HSBC becomes first bank to offer five-year fixed rate mortgage with interest rate under 2%
Crippling PFI deals leave Britain £222bn in debt
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000