Bunhill: Taxing ideas

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The Independent Online
MY APPEAL for tax ideas to help Kenneth Clarke narrow his pounds 50bn deficit has prompted a flood of letters. Caravan Tax, my proposal last week, would net the Chancellor pounds 20m as well as striking at a foul blot on the landscape. What other nuisance taxes could be introduced?

John Cramcasa of Cheltenham proposes a 'Celeb Tax'. Sportsmen, entertainers and other celebrities should be clobbered for 60 per cent on their earnings when they deliver a poor performance.

But I have to rule it out on grounds of difficulty to administer and subjectivity. Can we trust Inland Revenue officials to reach the right judgement on what constitutes a poor performance?

Mark Sennitt of Freemantle near Southampton proposes Beard Tax: 'Beards look stupid and are notoriously difficult to conceal. A yearly licence could be purchased from the Post Office which would then be carried around for when the beard-wearer is challenged.' The precedent was set by Peter the Great, who taxed beards in 18th-century Russia.

But this is out, too. Beards, while aesthetically offensive, do not constitute a serious nuisance.

This week's winner of a bottle of champagne is Geoffrey Sherlock of Amersham, Bucks, who puts forward a compelling case for Umbrella Tax. UT would vary according to canopy area and length of ferrule, according to Mr Sherlock, who sends in a precise formula based on the square of the length of the umbrella rib times pi.

'This would particularly hit all those people who use large golfing umbrellas in the street, or who carry them across tops of briefcases while going up escalators or staircases.'

Each umbrella would have a unique tax number, yielding several benefits. Special numbers could be sold at a premium (like car registration numbers). Lost brollies could be instantly matched up with their owners. 'And people injured by rogue or incompetent umbrella users could quote the number in any subsequent court case.'

Mr Sherlock, who omits to say whether he has been on the receiving end of a rogue umbrella himself, says a pounds 5 tax on the 10 million umbrellas carried each day in the UK could yield pounds 50m to the Exchequer. 'PS: The tax could include a public liability insurance to pay for damage to eyes or other parts of the anatomy.'