Sunday, April 20, 2008

'If anyone present knows a reason why these persons may not lawfully marry'

Antonia has already dissected the dreadful, self indulgent article in the Observer about the lifelong Labour voter who is getting married after more than thirty years of happy cohabitation to reduce the amount of inheritance tax that her children will have to pay. Apparently, an 'incalculable number of people' now have to pay this 'punitive' tax.

As a general principle, I'm actually in favour of more news coverage along the lines of 'rich people whine about having to pay tax, how it is all sooo unfair, and how they are being forced to go to very minor inconveniences in order to make sure that their children/pets/other chosen beneficiaries won't have to scrape by inheriting a mere £300,000+ tax free'.

The more money that gets raised through inheritance tax, the more it is easily possible to reduce tax bills of low paid workers, or improve the long term care for elderly people, or any number of good causes.

But if it is really the case that changes to inheritance tax rules have prompted a 'sudden influx of old people at registry offices all over the country', then there is a very simple and fun piece of public service and civic activism which could be performed. At any wedding where the sole purpose, as in this case, is for wealthy people to dodge inheritance tax, anyone can just turn up and raise an objection at the appropriate moment. Just a thought...


At 9:33 am , Anonymous jdc said...

Given that Alistair Darling has today used another £50 billion of taxpayers' money to make houses more expensive (on top of the £25 billion he used last year), and implied that another £50 billion is on offer if necessary, I'm starting to think that a £300k tax-free inheritance is my only chance of ever buying a house.

So, great news for people who get no inheritance at all, they can go to the back of the queue behind the newly minted. I imagine the concept of home ownership is history for them now. Personally if the tax subsidy to bank shareholders succeeds I will never believe another word a Government Minster ever says about supporting affordable housing.

If Gordon had kept to the promised he made to Parliament in 1997, we wouldn't have this inheritance tax crisis, because it would still only be being paid by about 0.5% of the population. Instead we have an economic set-up which redistributed from the poor to the rich to an extent the Tories could only possibly have dreamed of.

(and which in the long-term redistributes from the UK to foreign governments, so isn't even economically rational, absent any concern about social justice).

At 12:52 pm , Anonymous Daniel said...

She is clearly a dreadful woman, but she has simply used the system to avoid paying tax, like thousands of others.

Would it be better to tax landowners in a way that would prevent such colossal avoidance?

If we were to introduce land value taxation she would be required to pay a proportion of the annual rental value of her land in tax. This would stabilise land prices, prevent land being kept idle and raise revenue fairly.

If circumstances in old age meant she didn't want to move but could no longer afford to pay LVT on a large property she could defer payment until death. It would probably raise far more money than inheritance tax.

In the meantime we have tried competiting with the Tories on who has a more popular policy on inheritance. The Tories won, and it nearly lost us an election. We need to move on from this ineffective policy, to something better, fairer, and unavoidable.

At 11:10 am , Anonymous stephen said...

anyone can just turn up and raise an objection at the appropriate moment

Spurious moral objections to someone's legal choice to get married won't hold up the ceremony for long. The right to marry is enshrined in the ECHR and the HRA. But being charged for behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace might ruin the protestor's day!

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