Skip to main content

Popular misconceptions from Tax Justice Network

The Tax Justice Network, as its name implies, aims to promote justice in taxation. As I have said previously, the organisation ought to be on-side with us but sadly it is not. It does little more than trade on public indignation, admittedly well-founded, and promote popular left-wing myths. This is an example of a recent exchange I had, which they declined to publish on their blog, as TJN seems to censor comments it is uncomfortable with.

We do indeed seem to share a lot of goals. The key difference is that we believe in a range of kinds of taxes – enabling democratic leaders to mould and shape a tax system to their will – while you seem to favour only one tax. Which leads you into a fatal mistake – the logic of your argument leads you into what looks like an unholy alliance with the anti=tax brigade – those who think that if we cut government down to the size where it is small enough to drown in a bathtub. embrace a range of taxes, Henry, including LVT, and it seems to me we are then on the same side again…. what is more, we do pay attention to LVT – here’s our last piece

My unpublished respose… The taxation and representation link can be traced to a slogan that originated at the time when America was governed from Westminster but had no direct representation in the British parliament.It appears to have mutated in various directions, in particular the principle became inverted to become “no representation without taxation”. This lay behind the Thatcherite Poll Tax, which is the logical conclusion of the notion and seems to underly TJNs assertion that direct taxes such as income tax serve to promote democracy. But since the true incidence of income tax falls on employers, the whole proposition is dubious.

In any event, where is the evidence to support the claim? In the UK, there is little real democratic choice since government remains in the hands of a political class devoted to manipulation of the electoral system and media in order to remain in power, aided and abetted by a self-perpetuating establishment mandarinate, both heavily influenced by corporate interests, to an extent that is beginning to astonish and disgust the public to the point that they regard those involved in the system with contempt.If there is a link between taxation and government, the present state of democracy in the UK is no advertisement for the country’s tax system.

I favour a minimum number of taxes. They should not be allowed to proliferate, not least because each one has its own set-up and running costs. There is no necessary connection between size of government and LVT, since LVT is capable of raising at least as much revenue as all existing taxes put together. But under the present tax system so much government expenditure goes on the the relief of poverty which would simply not exist under a system in which most public revenue came from LVT. That is what is wrong with having a package of taxes. All taxes reduce that which is taxed eg window taxes promote bricked-up windows, whilst taxes on tobacco and alcohol discourage smoking and drinking. The latter two might be acceptable but taxes on work – which is what most of our taxes are, one way or another – promote idleness. Is that what you are in favour of?
LVT can be used to support a cradle-to-grave socialist type welfare state or it can be used to run a minimum government state, with the surplus used to provide a universal benefit or national dividend – a reverse Poll Tax, which would indeed promote keen democratic debate.
Personally I don’t have a view on the subject. There is much to be said for expensive Scandinavian style public services. But the British are not Scandinavians and are probably not capable of delivering efficient and good quality services through public agencies, and in that case the “small government” model might be better. But if poverty is abolished, which is what substantial LVT would do, then everyone is a position to make genuine choices.
I am pleased to see that you promoted the LVT seminar but did you send anyone and did you write it up afterwards? By virtually ignoring LVT your campaign is depriving itself of its most powerful weapon.
Really I don’t understand this.