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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'