Diary: Government adviser urges the taxmen to overcharge us

 

One of David Cameron's most senior advisers has made a vain attempt to persuade tax officials to overcharge us all, on purpose, as a subtle way of making us happier about being taxed.

At first reading that may not make much sense, but the adviser in question runs Downing Street's "nudge unit", the people whose job it is to invent unusual and discreet ways to make us all change our behaviour. Some people think the unit is a hot house of sharp, innovative thinking whose combined brain power could save the government vast sums of money. Others suspect that it is a fount of silly gimmicks that appeal to the ad man in David Cameron.

Dr David Halpen, head of the Behavioural Insights Team (to give the nudge unit its correct name) who also used to be Tony Blair's chief strategy analyst, has observed that we hate it if the tax people come to us demanding money because they have made a mistake and undercharged us. Mistakes like that make people want to cheat on their next tax returns. But we love it if the Revenue gets it wrong, owns up, and we get a cheque through the post.

Therefore, HMRC should deliberately overcharge, and so that every taxpayer gets a nice title refund at the end of the year, Dr Halpern told a civil servants' conference this month. "When people get tax back from the HMRC, they feel great, so we're trying to persuade you guys that's what you should do," he urged. HMRC is not impressed. "We do not seek to collect more tax than is due from our customers," a spokesperson told the in-house Civil Service World.

Eric Joyce's victim is given further abuse

The fallout continues from that famous evening when the former Labour MP Eric Joyce came over all emotional and pugnacious in a subsidised Commons bar. The Tory MP for Pudsey, Stuart Andrew, met Joyce's flailing fist.

Mr Andrew is also openly gay – a fact which played no part in that evening's events but did not escape the attention of a troll called Nicholas Scales, who sent Mr Andrew an email, calling him a "mummy's boy" and worse. Scales pleaded guilty at Leeds magistrates court to sending a malicious communication and will be sentenced later.

Trees joins the garden set

Congratulations to Alexander Trees, an eminent vet, on joining the Lords this week. Lord Trees will sit as a crossbencher, as did Lord Flowers, until his death two years ago – unlike Lord Wood and Lord Plant, who are Labour, or Lord Garden, Lord Ashdown and Lord Oakeshott, who are Liberal Democrats.

Alderman in row almost loses title

Paul Bartlett, a former Tory councillor from Milton Keynes, has narrowly avoided scoring a first for that town. In recognition of his service on the council, he was awarded the honorary title of Alderman, which is normally for life. But after a blazing row with the landlady of the Duke of Wellington pub, and after he was locked out of an art gallery for alleged offensive behaviour, the council held a vote on whether to strip him of his title. It was defeated by 18 votes to 17, with 14 abstentions. "I feel vindicated," Alderman Bartlett told the Milton Keynes Citizen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral