Bunhill: Appeal for tax ideas

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The Independent Online
OUR appeal for tax ideas to help Ken Clarke continues to attract excellent suggestions. We're looking for new taxes that help fill the Treasury's desperately empty coffers and crack down on irritants.

This week a bottle of champagne goes to Michael Boswell of Old Buckenham, Norfolk, who proposes a tax on unsolicited telephone calls from salesmen trying to sell life assurance, double glazing, fitted kitchens and the like.

Unlike junk mail, which you can spot a mile off and dispatch unopened to the bin, the dreaded tele-salesman is impossible to detect until after you've listened to half a minute of ingratiating patter.

At 25p a call, say, telephone salesman tax would generate anything from pounds 10m to pounds 100m (depending on estimates of the number of calls) for the Exchequer and be popular with the entire electorate.

It might also spur the telesales industry to get on with its long-promised Telephone Preference Service, whereby people can register to be left in peace.

Ten years ago the junk mail industry managed to introduce the Mailing Preference Service. The tele-salesmen and phone companies are still squabbling about who should pay for a parallel service.

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