Sunday, 18 November 2007

Income Tax, Oversight and Government Accountability

Taxation is a bit like a multi-channel TV package crossed with a protection racket.

You get a load of rubbish that you wouldn't want for free - let alone actually have to pay for - forced upon you, along with a few things that you might actually want, some of the time – and if you don’t cough up the boys will be round...

Of course with the TV you are not actually forced to subscribe (except for the BBC TV Tax of course)

Most people don't know where their taxes are going, what they are being spent on, or why. If they did they probably wouldn’t approve of some of it - and until people can engage more with where their contribution goes they will be reluctant to endorse, or even support the expenditure. Voting just does not do it.

If it were actually the Government's money that would be no problem. But its' only the Government’s money in the sense that the proceeds of any robbery become the thief’s. Taxation is not voluntary.

So here’s an idea. What if only a 3rd of tax gathered actually went to the Government to do with as it would - But the rest the individual contributing it could, if they wanted to, decide where it went and on what, depending on their priorities.

It would still have go on something, but they could decide what. That would surely be much more democratic, help to engage the public in politics and make them feel more empowered.

It would harness the so-called wisdom of crowds and reduce available Government spending where it was not generally wanted and increase it where it was felt to be more needed. That way it is unlikely anything worthwhile would suffer, as people’s views would probably tend to balance out generally. Maybe the poor old armed forces might do better out of it for instance

Pensions, as an example. One would want to make sure it was kept up, for the benefit of elderly relatives and friends. Also you never know you might need it yourself, what with the former Chancellor making raids destroying the value of pension funds, best be on the safe side there.

Ditto for most of the important stuff. Those who actually make the effort to do it are likely to operate on the principles of enlightened self-interest to some extent.

You would have to watch that the Government didn’t try to loose details of some of the worst unpopular wastes of money in some innocuous budget. So you would need to drill down into the categories in some detail.

This could be done by post (forms from the library or post office, completed ones to a freepost address) or via the internet.

As they say Tax doesn’t have to be taxing…

Quote of the day

“ Taxation is very much like dairy farming. The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo. And I'm afraid to say, that these days, all I'm getting is moo.”

Terry Pratchett