‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Who owns your money?

From The Guardian

"No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer's pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue."

- Lord Clyde (Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services v Inland Revenue, 1929)

This is not tax evasion, but tax avoidance, and Barlow has earned his corn honestly and, as far as I know, without cheating or hurting anyone. It's not his fault that, like Henry VIII, our governments in recent years have been completely useless at managing their finances.

What Lord Clyde would have thought of the Inland Revenue getting clearance to shovel money directly out of your bank account on the merest (even pretended) suspicion that you might owe them something, I can't say.

But as Martin Armstrong observes, that fires the starting-pistol for the race to get your money away from any jurisdiction that thinks it can make free with your property. Governments should not give themselves carefully-fuzzy powers to do what they will: "carte blanche" was the instrument of Dumas' wicked Cardinal Richelieu.

Nor is this the revolutionary French National Assembly, where the mob brings down whomever it wants on a whim. Whipping up public indignation is a very dangerous and two-edged sword.

And remember that the American Revolution was about "no taxation without representation" - the tea dumped into Boston Harbour was a Trojan horse attempt to get the colonists to concede the principle by purchasing a product that had been taxed at source.

You could argue - and I do - that our current electoral system is so dysfunctional as to be just such a form of non-representation.*

These appear to be desperate times.

*No, that doesn't mean don't pay your taxes. But the sense of disenfranchisement feeds potentially dangerous resentment. Power carelessly exercised creates its own opposition.

The system's increasingly urgent search for extra money to keep going, the increasing difficulty ordinary people find in making a living and saving money, plus the erosion of civil liberties and general over-bossiness, are making some people stressed and reactionary. The EU debate (for example) involves such issues. Norman Cohn's "The Pursuit of the Millennium" shows that when societies are under great stress, they are vulnerable to manias. I think we see some of this on the Net.


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Captain Ranty said...

Who owns our money?

If it is in a bank account, then the bank owns it.

If it has been sent to the govt, it is their money.

Pretty much the only time it is your money is when it is in the form of cash in your pocket.


Sackerson said...

"If it is in a bank account, then the bank owns it."

Legally - and though I expect do you, most people still don't know this - money in the bank is an investment, not something lodged for safekeeping.

Paddington said...

It gets worse. Our Social Security people in Washington have started seizing tax rebates of people (and their relatives) who received overpayments 30+ years ago. Many of those overpayments were before any records that they have, and many were repaid long before now.

A K Haart said...

"These appear to be desperate times."

Increasingly spiteful times too.