Taxation is a foolish and unimaginative way of raising revenue. But it is useful for fleecing society at large and the poor in particular. Tax avoidance in Britain is estimated at over £100 billion a year, enough to cover the running costs of the NHS. The rate at which wealth is being transferred, from the state and employees to corporations, is unmatched in the developed world. In a generation the corporate tax rate has plunged from 52 to 22 percent.
Apple, Starbucks, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, eBay and others pay little or no tax in the UK. Their bagmen appear before Parliamentary committees and try not to laugh – their scams after all are planned by the world’s leading accountancy firms and are completely legal.
For those in ‘Breadline Britain’ such professional help is out of reach. There seems no way of avoiding ‘Housing Benefit size criteria’ – aka the ‘spare room subsidy’ or ‘bedroom tax’. The chief virtue of this tax is to demonstrate the venality of government. It works by reducing state housing assistance to the most vulnerable if they have an extra room. The size of the room does not matter. Overnight a tiny cubicle – common in social housing- became a spare room putting the rent out of reach of the occupants.
The rules for the bedroom tax are one room for a couple, one room for two children of the same sex under 15 and one room for two children of different sexes under 9. Some 500, 000 households are affected.
This was expected to claw back about £450 million, less than half a percent of the revenue lost through tax avoidance. Some 30, 000 households have been forced to move and 100, 000 households are in limbo because ‘smaller’ homes are unavailable. Skimping on food to offset an average loss of £14 a week is common.
A review of the impact of the tax after a year (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) found it had only brought in some £330 million. And much of this has been cancelled out by increased costs to landlords who are not major property developers.
That gave me an idea. What if these ‘spare rooms’ were simply filled in with concrete? Landlords would save money, the affected families (sixty percent of whom include a disabled person) could stay in their homes and local industry would be stimulated all in one fell swoop.
It is depressing to read in my meticulously ironed newspaper this morning that the government has imposed a heavy tax on the production of concrete for domestic purposes.