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
  • Get to the point
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 Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions