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Monday 26 December 2011
Taxation without representation
You wrote, "If Mr Osborne were still bolder, he could also introduce the sort of global tax liability on Britons that the IRS applies to Americans" (leading article, 29 November). One can hope that George Osborne looks before he leaps.
Britons living abroad would be paying for security, infrastructure, health care, education and other benefits which neither they nor the members of their communities use or enjoy. In addition, it would create a political disconnect, in that these Britons would suffer taxation without effective representation. Being subject to two tax regimes at the same time means they would effectively pay the higher rate of tax on any given transaction.
Retirement planning would become extremely difficult, since tax-advantaged schemes which work in the country of residence might not work for UK purposes, and vice-versa.
Bank accounts, pension plans, and insurance policies which non-resident Britons maintain where they live might be perceived by HMRC as potential vehicles for tax evasion, leading to intrusive reporting requirements.
When taxation is linked to citizenship, as opposed to residence, it is impossible to break the link by moving abroad. One has to find a way to give up citizenship, an option ever more frequently pursued by US citizens.
Even that is not the end of it. Since the US Congress considers such "expatriations" to be a form of tax avoidance, it has legislated an "exit tax" on many US citizens who expatriate. The exit tax effectively taxes their least liquid assets, their homes, by deeming them sold before expatriation, and their pensions, by requiring their value to be included in income before expatriation.
Joan B Ingram
Rodney Cox (letter, 1 December) is wrong to describe the tax relief on contributions to personal pensions as "government subsidies". The relief is the reflection of a long-established legal principle that income should be taxed only once. The same principle applies equally to employee contributions to company and public-sector schemes, because the future payments from those pensions are treated as income and taxed accordingly.
Many on low incomes will pay no tax at all in retirement; those earning enough today to get tax relief at 50 per cent may well pay tax on their pension income at whatever the maximum rate is when they retire.
The same principle explains why the proceeds from Isas (funded from taxed current income) are not taxed at maturity. The debate about pensions perhaps obscures the fact that, for many people, Isas are a better option than a personal pension.
Pensions have two sets of charges, for the pension plan itself then for the annuity that is eventually purchased with the accumulated pension fund. When the pensioner dies, the pension dies with him. Isas have just one charge and – crucially – any money left over at death passes to the heirs.
Bathgate, West Lothian
State funeral for Thatcher is 'a slap in the face'
The fact that a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher has even been contemplated (report, 21 December) is a slap in the face for the millions of people whose lives she ruined.
She destroyed the British manufacturing base, destroyed the coal industry and destroyed the steel and ship-building industries as well as destroying whole communities which are still suffering from her legacy today. She ruled a land where an estimated five million were unemployed, forming the basis of today's multi-generational benefit-dependent families. She waged a war which could have been avoided.
She allowed Nigel Lawson, her chancellor, to begin the ruination of pensions by allowing employers to take a "pensions holiday". She created a nation reliant on financial services and service industries (and look where that has landed us) and changed a cohesive society to one which was and is selfish, self-serving and hypocritical, and this has led to a divided nation.
Her premiership started and ended with nationwide riots and protests. All this came from her fanatical ideology and it came to a point where even her own colleagues decided to get rid of her.
Today's austerity was born from her ideology, so why should taxpayers' money be wasted on a divisive state funeral?
A state funeral for Thatcher will be imposed on the nation without discussion. A response is required but it needs to be well-planned and co-ordinated.
A simple riot or series of riots will not do. The response must be better planned and executed than the funeral and must overwhelm and render futile the objectives of the occasion.
Co-ordinating countrywide (Europe- or worldwide even) events which create a lasting memorial to that which was destroyed but which also give a very loud voice to all of the constructive, progressive alternatives that have been delayed by Margaret Thatcher; that is the way to go. A joyful celebration of future progress is the best antidote to the lionising of past delusional sociopathy.
While we are still making good Thatcher's harm, we can look to a future in which she is placed in her correct historical perspective, as a malign temporary deviation from the progress of civilisation. The 21st century can then resume the upward course that has been so sadly delayed.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Israel keeps up the arrests
While we in the West have been congratulating Israel for the release already of 477 Palestinian prisoners with more to follow, Israel has quietly imprisoned a further 470 Palestinians to take their place, some of them from the first ones released, a brief taste of "freedom" for them.
Presumably, the second tranche of released prisoners is also being quietly replaced by other Palestine prisoners; thus the release of Gilad Shalit has been achieved without any significant gain to the Palestinians and Israel's status quo is maintained yet again.
It is time that the West, the Arabs and the blinded United States take Israel to task and force it to comply with all United Nations resolutions and to stop its double-dealing at every chance it believes it can get away with it.
The dilemma for theists
Richard Dawkins and John Badcock may both have views sincerely and freely entered into, though opposing (letters, 23 December). But their views are not of equal intellectual validity. If there were equal amounts of verifiable, or testable, supporting evidence for both views, then we could say they were equals. There is not.
The atheist view draws upon the scientific study of our planet and universe. The conclusion that there is no God is derived from this scientific evidence. But the theist view offers no evidence for its position, only the assertions of long-dead men, unreliable second-hand testimony, written centuries after the events described, and "divine revelation".
Indeed, the theist view can never provide evidence for its position, without destroying itself. Religion is dependent on faith and belief, both of which can exist only in the absence of evidence. Put simply, if you know that something has happened or will happen (because you have evidence), then faith and belief are redundant.
Stephen Lawson appears to be saying (letters, 21 December) that when people use the word "Christian" it means just what they choose it to mean. I wonder how widely this Humpty Dumpty credo is held in the church hierarchies.
Horrific cost of casino banking
John Pinkerton (letter, 19 December) criticises the disproportionate emphasis on the financial services sector when it makes up a tiny proportion of national income. But by using the oft-touted figure of 10 per cent for the sector he inadvertently swallows its propaganda: the City's own contribution to the national income is 2.4 per cent, the remaining 7.6 per cent being made up of the retail banking we all need.
So the casino branch of banking accounts for less than one-fortieth of our national income, all this for the horrendous cost that these greedy incompetents have imposed on us.
David Cameron's call for a revival of traditional Christian values could solve the eurozone problem. A realignment of the currency into a Protestant euro, a Catholic euro and a Greek Orthodox euro would accord with historic choices and economic reality. Britain might even opt in.
Dr John Doherty
Send this MP back to school
One senior teacher said: "The whole question of these tests [on literacy and numeracy for trainee teachers] is irrelevant if they are going to teach art or religion ('Trainee teachers must try harder', 17 December)."
Isn't it disturbing that people who can't spell or add up are allowed to teach anything at all? And isn't it arrogant to assume artists and priests don't need these skills? No wonder we have an underclass that cannot properly read, write or deal with simple sums.
Listen to Mr Hinds MP, who sits on the Education Select Committee, who was also quoted in the article: "Many were allowed to take these tests more then once, let alone multiple times." Must have learnt his English skills from an artist or priest.
Can I suggest that we alter our language to describe those opposed to all things European? The term "Eurosceptic" is no longer accurate enough to descibe these people. They are quite clearly now totally "Europhobic". If the EU Commission decided to give every EU citizen a new year bonus of €25 they would want an opt-out for Britain because it was not in sterling.
No change there
Cash-free banks may be an absurdity, but an absurdity not limited to Britain. I was walking through a Dublin suburb and came across vacant premises, formerly a branch of a major bank. I saw a sign indicating it was a cash-free branch. It seems a bizarre concept. Can anyone explain the thinking behind a cashless bank? Is banking not the business of dealing in money?
Geography professor Andrew Scott (letters, 22 December), commenting on your article of 20 December, jests that Belize is also a B in South America when pointing out the apparent confusion over Bolivia and Belize by the BBC. The Prof makes his mistake, too, in overlooking the location of Belize in Central America, not South America.
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