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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice