Harry Redknapp’s defence in this week’s infamous HMRC tax evasion case can be summed up thus: why, when I have paid £8m in tax over my lifetime, would I risk my entire career on a piffling £189,000?
Piffling? He’s right, in a sense. But in the week the government rolled out its new YouTube reality TV show, ‘Portas Pilots’, that’s almost double the £100k the 12 ‘contestants’ (sorry, towns) will receive - or roughly the same amount as a 10,000 sq ft supermarket mezzanine in the same town.
I’m not sure whether the Portas Pilots are a sign of quite how broke the UK government is, or how futile it believes this exercise is. But then again the appointment of Mary Portas was always a bit of a gimmick.
And talking of strange choices for government inquiries takes me back to tax avoidance. Isn’t it strange Sir Philip Green is asked to head up an inquiry into government inefficiency rather than challenge him on his clever use of tax law that saps the public coffers even further?
This government is not alone in indulging some of its richest inhabitants, of course. But I doubt Sir Philip, or any of the countless Russian billionaires in London would admit, like Warren Buffett, how egregious it is to be paying less tax than their cleaners. And while Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, promised to take on tax dodgers, this government seems to cowtow to them (like the last lot).
As press reports this week focused attention on headmasters who are earning more than £100k (a piffling sum, if they’re doing a good job), the statistic bothering me is that only three of the 85 owners of One Hyde Park apartments pays the full £1,375.24 rate of council tax. Now that’s a piffling sum of money to avoid, when they’ve paid £1.42bn for the flats themselves. But they do.
If the filthy rich could be made to pay their way on their non-dom and second residence piles, maybe we could cut VAT. It might not save the high street, but it’s addressing tax, not bonuses, that will get us out of this mess.