Following news that the government is bent on reducing the benefits it pays out to people with a disability by means of short, sharp interviews, with not a chance of consulting a consultant, or getting a second opinion, i was left wondering whether other services might not benefit from this no-nonsense approach:
“So, Mr Cholmondley-Badger:let’s get straight to the point. We believe we have evidence that you have been working…”
“I…There’s no law against that, is there?
“No, sir. We wouldn’t suggest there was. It is just you appear to have been working in the UK.”
“I might have been.”
OH, you have: we have the video footage to prove it. Its just we don’t seem to have any corresponding tax payments for the period.”.
“Ah. No. I can explain.”
“We do hope so. Because under ordinary circumstances, if you’ve been working and ripping off the taxpayer…. Well: you do understand, don’t you?
“Yes. Only I haven’t exactly been working in the UK.”
“Oh, come on…”
“Alright: I have; but my company hasn’t. We decided it would be better all round if we moved to the Cayman Islands and, er, shared an address with our Tax Accountants.”
“You were co-habiting?”
“How dare you! We’re just good friends.”
“Well, the two of you were…living together? Is that acceptable?”
“You were living together and that your company listed its address down as the Cayman Islands.”
“Or rather, it would have done: except the address you gave out to all your customers round here was PO BOX 62705 which, to the unwary, might have suggested you were baed somewhere in Swindon?”
“We were merely trying to appear a little less…distant to our customers.”
“About three and a hlaf thousand miles less distant, by the sound of it. But you have been working over here.”
“And your company is listed as over there.”
“So for that reason, you reckon we should hand over loads of dosh, in the form of tax rebates and the like, even though you have been, to quote your recent ad campaign ‘coining it in’ over here?”
“On reflection, we may have been a little over-exuberant…”
“Indeed. As some viewers observed when confronted with the scantily clad image of Miss Rita Chevrolet, 36…er, 23…36, apparently bathing in a bathtub overflowing with £20 notes…I suppose she, too, now rsides in your little Cayman Island love-nest, alongside you and your Accountant?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! She’s from Swindon.”
“Ah. All the same, as they used to say : ‘the game’s up, chummy’. We don’t like the look of you. Or your accountant. We reckon you’re good for half a billion in back tax for now…with maybe another big one coming next April.”
“I…can I ask for a second opinion?”
“But you’ve taken less than an hour to assess what is essentially a highly complex and essentially complicated set off.”
“The boy’s a genius! We’ve told you: you work here. You pay taxes here. Simples!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Oh. It sounds like such a good idea. Sadly, though, as recent nes from the Inland Revenue makes plain: while the above approach may be good enough for the likes of the average bod on disability living allowance…its juts not how they do things with the likes of Goldman Sachs who may just have been let off £20m in tax. Though even that deal pales into insignificance next to Vodafone, who were allegedly excused the best part of £7bn in tax.
No, sirree…the more you owe, the later you are, the more time you get to pay, the more appeals you get to make and, ultimately, the less tax you seem to pay.
Odd that. When just ONE interview a bit like the one imagined above could generate more revenue for the UK economy than tens of thousands of similar interviews by ATOS – the body charged with re-assessing whether folks “are disabled or not” – in respect of the poorest in society.