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Sunday, April 08, 2012

To publish tax returns or not?

Over on his blog the former Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood makes a compelling case as to why the idea of candidates for public office compulsorily publishing their tax returns is the thin end of a very short wedge:

There are three main arguments against requiring publication of tax returns.

The first is it would reinforce the tendency of elections to be about individuals and their personal lives rather than about public policy and what they will do for the electors. The media fasciantion with the exchanges between Boris and Ken over personal tax and income is crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London.

The second is it could lead to very misleading jibes about tax avoidance. If Candidate A and Candidate B have the same income, but Candidate A is saving the maximum permitted for his pension and Candidate B is putting aside the minimum, Candidate A will be paying less tax. Does this make him a nasty tax avoider, or a prudent man who does not wish to be a burden on taxpayerrs in his old age? Is Candidate B the more worthy because he is paying more tax, or feckless because he is not using a legitimate tax saving device to provide for his own old age? Will any of these nuances come across in the noise of the headlines about tax rates?

The third is how far back will all this go? Will it put goood potential candidates off because they have been successful in the past and have no wish to share all the details of their business and personal finances with everyone else?

As John Redwoood says, just because it happens in America is no argument to see its introduction here. I am not opposed to transparency, but the whole raison d'etre behind publication of tax returns is that the candidate must prove that he or she has not done something wrong. If we are to base our democracy on a presumption of guilt then we are on a very slippery slope indeed.
I'd like to see how much people are paying in Tax, and more importantly, how much people are earning....

You have the situation with politicians, specifically County Councillors who are on various committees, police authority, fire authority, Health Board, etc, etc, special responsiblity allowances... how much dosh are these earning???
So "Anonymous" wants to see how much we all earn and pay in tax yet won't even give us their name.
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