‘You have money and we are taking it.’ This increasingly the attitude of the British government and its agencies and it is a phenomenon stretching across Europe and into the Americas.
In fairness to the state it has played a blinder. It has successfully turned one part of society, the less well off, more aggressively against better off members of society, despite the fact the less well off stand to gain nothing from an increase in the tax take. The only beneficiary is the government which possesses an almost limitless capacity for squandering the money and leaving the country with nothing to show for it.
What used to be simple envy or disdain of the better off has been transformed into resentment and outright hostility. The media has been an willing accomplice, fanning the flames and parroting a narrative that anyone who seeks to keep their tax liabilities to a minimum is somehow being unfair to the rest of society, not paying their fair share and by definition morally repugnant.
The hostility first became entrenched when it was directed at the lavishly remunerated corporate officers and the bonus happy bankers. But now it has broadened to encompass anyone who is not an average PAYE employee.
Never mind that many of those people being subjected to unjust anger have taken huge risks to build businesses and create jobs, while working 18 hour days, going without holidays, not being able to spend time with their families and working when unwell because there is no luxury of sick pay to fall back on. No, unless their pockets are being turned out to satisfy the state’s fetish for controlling how their money is spent, without any form of consultation or consent, they are the most selfish scum of the earth.
So it is against that backdrop of sown division, mistrust and resentment that two stories this weekend combine to paint a picture of our elected and supposed representatives running out of control, rigging the rules against the ‘ordinary’ citizens to suit ideological interests they have adopted from a plethora of unelected and unaccountable bodies that are positioning themselves as a de facto global administration.
The first story concerns the shocking actions of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) falsely accusing a company’s directors of fraud, shutting down the company making over 30 people unemployed and using draconian powers that prevent the former owners from challenging the action through the courts while pressuring them to settle the accusation with payment to cover the alleged £7 million in taxes and duties. There was no evidence. All this happened on the basis of a suspicion that something fraudulent was going on. Indeed, HRMC’s defence of their actions was to state there was no evidence the company wasn’t acting fraudulently, a clear inversion of the principles of justice.
The second story concerns HRMC tearing up the basic principles of privacy and data protection. At the behest of the government, HRMC is to use credit reference agencies to cross-check details of the income people declare on their tax returns against their spending patterns to identify “high” and “medium” risks of both illegal and legal tax avoidance. As we have said on this blog and Twitter before, tax evasion is a crime, but tax avoidance is perfectly legal. So why should HMRC bother checking to see if people are legally minimising their tax liability? The clue can be found in the comment by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander:
“It is simply not fair that at a time when most people are making a contribution to balancing the nation’s books, there is a small minority of taxpayers who try to escape their responsibility.”
Really? Who determines what is ‘fair’? Never mind that some of these people pay more in tax each year than a lot of other people earn. Never mind the risks and sacrifices many of them have made as detailed above. No, they are supposedly escaping their ‘responsibility’ – a word the definition of which governments of every stripe over the last 20 years or more have simply not grasped and believe to be a one-way street that travels in their direction.
We are witnessing a concerted effort to demonise those who have something the government wants in order to enable the government to use nefarious mechanisms to obtain it. In the eyes of the government – as it stokes up the spiteful societal divisions it is fostering by using vocal members of the less well off as useful idiots to demand exactly that which the government wishes to do – this state over reach is justified for being a populist measure demanded by the public. And for fear of kneejerk vilification, by the unthinking useful idiots and hypocritical, comfortably wealthy trough hogging politicians, many reasonable and right thinking people who see the wrong-headedness of the government’s behaviour and irresponsible waste of our resources, keep quiet. This is the UK in 2012.
Small wonder we see cries of frustration such as this in response to the tightening grip our supposed servants are exerting on ordinary people. Common sense is evaporating and manipulation of the people by those who make the rules is all pervasive. What will it take before the slumbering masses wake up and realise the state’s self conferred and increasingly untrammelled power has become too much? When will people take the power back?