Friday, September 15, 2006

Hiss, and indeed sneer

In today's column, Polly Toynbee writes:

With City bonuses this year at over £21bn, earnings themselves could and should be fairer

We've done the lie about City bonuses and the £21bn before, of course, so forgive me for not repeating myself.


She also writes that:

Is the tax system too complicated? The CBI and other rightwing critics protest at a "rococo" bureaucracy where each year the budget now fills not just one but two hefty tomes. Tax accountants, they say, are enjoying a bonanza, as starting salaries for the newly qualified jumped from £37,000 to £47,000 in 18 months. Oh for simplicity! they cry. But many of those voices are deeply disingenuous, to put it very politely indeed. Down-right bogus is nearer the mark.

I think she may have read yesterday's column by Jonathan Guthrie in the Financial Times -- the headline is"Why Brown's rococo work on tax will endure", it has the £37,000 to £47,000 figures, and the quote: "We have double volume finance acts year after year. Ten years ago they were a rarity."  She goes on to say that the people who say this sort of thing are tax evaders.  It is worth reading all of Guthrie's article, as this is not at all his point.  Consider this quote from his article:

At a headline level, the "rising corporate tax burden" business bodies complain of reflects higher profits. John Whiting of PwC forecasts corporation tax payments will hit almost £50bn this financial year, compared with £28bn in 2003-2004. You cannot kvetch about that, since percentage rates have stayed broadly the same since 2002.

Oh?  It's almost as if his point may not be about the overall tax burden, but maybe something else.  Maybe the complexity created by poorly thought out schemes which turn out to have unintended consequences?

Much complexity has been created by Mr Brown's attempts to use tax breaks for the business equivalent of social engineering. The fiddly research and development tax credit, whose main beneficiaries have been big drug companies, was intended to stimulate innovation in businesses both large and small. A zero rate corporation tax band was meant to spur high-growth start-ups. Instead, it triggered incorporations from the self-employed and a U-turn from the Treasury.

Oh, but never mind the subtleties, there's broad ideological attacking to be done!


On which note, she says:

The rich command every outlet of opinion that says tax is always a "burden", low taxes good and high taxes bad.

What she's doing here is claiming that the rich are taking reality and having it grotesquely distorted in the media.They have control of the media, and are often eager to abuse it for their own biased ideological purposes.

Oh, no, wait a moment.  That stuff about "grotesquely distorted" and "abuse it for their own ideological purposes" is actually Polly talking about what she used to do when she used to work for the BBC, an institution which, unlike the newspapers, is supposed to be ideologically neutral.

Honi soit.


We're also treated to a re-run of this garbage:

Few politicians dare remind people that what they value most - their health, their children's education, their safety, the pleasantness of streets or the beauty of public spaces - are all bought by taxes: the pound in their pocket only buys life's lesser things.

Ah, yes, life's lesser things.  Like food.


The column says that:

Taxes are a moral good, and avoiding your fair share is a moral disgrace

and goes on to say that:

Taxes do three traditional things: raise cash for public services, redistribute from richer to poorer, or induce people to change their behaviour - less drinking, smoking and driving cars.

She neglects to mention that taxes are also a way to allow elected politicians to give £7,000 to newspaper columnists who praise them in a non-competitive procurement process in order to cut and paste some old newspaper columns together.

Ken Livingstone did this to Polly Toynbee, of course.  To do this, he used some of the money which I paid in tax.  I think that is a moral disgrace, and Polly Toynbee's accepting the fee was a moral disgrace.


Anonymous said...

Polly is particularly weak on taxes. Perhaps when / if she ever discloses her pay from the Guardian, she could reassure us that she makes no use of tax planning as well. She wouldn't be employed by a service company, would she ...?

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

On page 78 of (my edition of) Better or Worse?, Polly writes:

"Newspaper editors and BBC directors and everyone they knew in their hermetic worlds all earned many multiples of £100,000." [emphasis added]

I take this to mean that Polly must be earning many multiples of £100,000, as she surely knows a newspaper editor.

OldSarum said...

Polly scrimps by on a mere £140,000 pa. But to her credit, at least she is not married to a multi-millionaire and send her kids to Eton like the Yazz monster.

Anonymous said...

you missed the fact that she claimed that council tax valuations are based on 1981 house prices and uses this to claim that the house prices we've had since then mean that we should all pay more tax. This isn't true of course, as if they based it on 2006 house prices the overall tax collected would not be any different, it would just cost lots of money to revalue.

She also gets the facts wrong: council tax is based on 1991 prices, not 1981 as she claimed.

Anonymous said...

regarding Polly's directorships, I did a quick search on a site and it says:

POLLY TOYNBEE Live Directorships/trading Company: 2
Live Directorships/Insolvent Company: 0
Live Directorships/Dissolved Company: 0
Resigned Directorships: 2
postcode: SW4 7AF

So she has been a director of 4 companies, and currently of 2. Unfortunately they want me to pay to get a report

I'm sure somebody else can do some research to find out what these companies are, and indeed that they are not nasty tax-avoiding personal services companies.

Anonymous said...

Here is the address listed for her

Available Reports Details
Director/Secretary Name:

Report Status: Current/Previous


According to

A terraced house in that street sold for £1.6 million last year. I imagine Polly's mansion is worth a lot more, as number 1 would be right on Clapham Common.

Here's a sat map,,+Lambeth,+Greater+London,+SW4&ie=UTF8&z=19&ll=51.460079,-0.138896&spn=0.001504,0.004227&t=k&om=1

Poor, poor Polly.

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

> She also gets the facts wrong: council
> tax is based on 1991 prices, not
> 1981 as she claimed.

Good catch; I did indeed miss that. So many inaccuracies, so little time, etc... The valuations are indeed done on the basis of 1991 prices (source is page 3 of this pdf).

As for the fact that redoing the valuations would have no effect, you make a good point, though of course a revaluation would make a difference to individuals whose house has either increased or decreased substantially, or may also make a difference if the compression ratios of house prices had changed (i.e. the average price of the cheapest house had risen faster or slower than the average).

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