Charles Nevin: A radical proposal... let's make tax fun

Share
Related Topics

Tax, a. Sounds like: attacks. Word associations: unfair, cut, rise, green, Cameron, Osborne, up, down, shake it all about, Evan Davies smiling winningly in front of tricksy graphic, Gordon Brown, grinding on, brown envelope, unopened, goodness me, not long to 31 January now, is it?

Nothing, you will observe, terribly cheerful there. And there, though I, modestly, hesitate to upset the balance by entering any creative suggestions into such a well-audited set of expert accounts, lies a problem which has languished unattended since one hand was held out and another fumbled grudgingly and unenthusiastically in a pouch.

Yes, it's the image thing. Long, long before Ben Franklin was grumbling on about death and taxes, Plato, who could also be grumpy, was opining, in best Athenian taverna-bar tones, "Where there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income." No Attic tax breaks for philosophers, clearly.

There's little doubt, either, that the anti-tax camp has had some very attractive figures. One thinks, obviously, of Lady Godiva (the disrobing, you will recall, was in return for old-style Tory cuts), of Robin Hood, William Tell, Ken Dodd, and Tom Paine, with this revolutionary cry: "What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue."

Winning taxers? Thin on the ground. History might not be written by losers, but it is by the taxed. To demonstrate what tax is up against, consider that people felt sorry for Al Capone when he went to jail for non-payment. Poor Eliot Ness, the real hero. All that, and being played by Kevin Costner.

Consider, too, that Baldwin, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, worried about the national debt, voluntarily surrendered 20 per cent of his own wealth, £150,000, as an encouraging example. And it's barely remembered, a fate which makes me less than sanguine for green taxes, which, I fear, will face the same problem with the divergence between agreeable general principle and disagreeable personal implication which affects so many things, from the Lib Dems' penny on tax for education to actually reading A Brief History of Time.

No, what is needed is a fresh approach to tax: it's no good stressing its worthiness; we need to make it fun. Yes, I know the Inland Revenue has had those adverts with Mrs Doyle from Father Ted and the bloke with the glasses who is big on what the Romans did for us (although I haven't heard him mention the invention of the poll tax). But that's not enough. What about signing up the aforementioned master, Ken Dodd? The night I saw him, he brought the house down with this one: "Personal assessment? I invented that."

And what about some more imaginative taxes? Taxes, for instance, on political memoirs, veils, crosses, including the flag of St George, balaclavas, bling, suede shoes, cardigans, and, of course, celebrity. That last could be assessed on the amount of publicity, which raises the enticing prospect of PR people begging for no coverage (already popular in certain instances, but capable of a much wider application, such as blanket).

What, too, about a rebate from the Treasury when government policies - no names, no crap Bills (or invasions), take your spoilt choice - prove disastrous? That might concentrate a few grass-hopper minds. Lastly, likely to be controversial, but tax credits for writers who are positive about the virtues of revenue-raising could be particularly effective.

Giants on the Mersey

Good news, possibly, for Antony Gormley's splendid statues, left, threatened with eviction from Crosby beach because of the danger of distracted art lovers inadvertently drowning: bolder souls, across the Mersey in Wirral, aware that art needs to be dangerous, are said to be interested in taking them in. The last time I counted, there were also proposals over there for an 180- foot-high naked statue of Neptune, a giant glass version of Stonehenge, and, oh, yes, a full-sized replica of the Titanic permanently moored over at Liverpool's Pier Head. Unesco is already clucking about unseemly erections at a world heritage site, but I think all of them together would be a marvellous tribute to the wit, vision, and dramatic flux available only on Merseyside. Bring them on!

* Not a bad few days for baby boomers. First, we learn that we are to be courted and blandished by both Labour and Conservatives, anxious to secure the votes of the 7.6 million of us in Britain. Then, blow me, we learn that one of our Spanish colleagues, aged 45, has only gone and bagged Gina Lollobrigida! My problem, though, as we prepare to flex our carefully preserved muscle, is the name: "baby boomer" has always had too much dribble, romper suit and wailing about it for my taste. We need a new term for the generation of 1946 to 1957. Something dignified, which rules out both Sighers, after the noise we make every time we sit down, and Pre Beigers. I like Victors, a verbal play on maturity and an actor only we will remember; but I prefer something artfully combining the cool of then and now: Post Mods.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory