Thursday, November 02, 2006

R&D Tax Credits - the truth

One of Labour's leading moans against the Tax Reform Commission's work will be the plan to get rid of R&D Tax Credits. The DTI's recent findings show that they are have not achieved their objectives, UK R&D spend, on a like for like basis is at 4% compared to 7% in the rest of the world and had actually declined in 2 of the years since Gordon introduced the credits.

Not only that but the main increases in R&D came in the Financial Services, retail and media industries. If Gordon meant these industries to be beneficiaries of the R&D tax credit then I'm a socialist. And the cause of the change, accounting standards, ie nothing has actually changed, its just balance sheet presentation.

If you look at the DTI scoreboard then on page 47 you can see that the UK has comfortably the lowest R&D as a percentage of sales of any major economy. The stats also show no evidence of R&D increasing more in the UK than elsewhere in the world.

That's not all. HMRC's latest Tax Bulletin indicated that 7 local centres were having to be established to deal with R&D tax credits. Why, can I suggest its because the rules are too complex for business to simply know if they qualify for benefits.

Brown should face the facts, he should abolish this relief as the TRC said. And cut the mainstream rate of tax, and the compliance burden, accordingly. If you want to really tackle the R&D crisis in the UK you need to rectify the comprehensivisation of UK education during my lifetime.

A bit too much self-promotion

Genuine quote from Councillor Coleman's latest newsofBrianletter:

Vanessa Feltz recently called him "One of the few politicians worth talking to"

The TaxCutter actually has some time for his GLA member despite such boasts. However, try the link to GLA Conservatives from the official Conservative Party website portrait of Brian. I don't think that's what was actually intended.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Vince - its all gone quiet

Given that the purer than pure LibDems might need to give back over £2m donated to them from someone dishonest - lets just remind ourselves of their own moralising on similar issues in recent years......, all courtesy of Vince Cable,

Dr Vincent Cable MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Trade & Industry Secretary, commenting on the collapse of WorldCom after the discovery of massive fraud, said:
“This fraud clearly shows that the false accounting at Enron was not a one off. It calls into question the effectiveness of self-regulation of auditors and accountants.
“Repeated disasters of this kind will have a wide-ranging effect on the UK: collapsing share prices, reducing pension funds and resulting in job losses.
“The solution to protecting the public must lie in tougher audit requirements, independent regulation of the accounting profession and a more expansive and stronger role for non executive directors”

17 July 2002

Dr Vincent Cable MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Trade & Industry Secretary, commenting on reports in the Financial Times that under new Government proposals company executives and employees would face up to two years in prison and unlimited fines if they mislead auditors, said:

“At the meeting of ministers, regulators and accountants, the Government will have to come up with radical proposals to restore confidence in companies and the accounting profession.
“The government has taken the view that Britain has more rigorous standards than the US, but with the Fairbanes Bill sweeping unopposed through the Senate there is a great danger that Britain will be left behind.
“Liberal Democrats believe that the restoration of confidence in business and the accountancy profession requires some bold steps which means the Government standing-up to the vested interests in the big accounting firms.”

"I welcome also the move to strengthen the independence of audit committees in companies. Does the right hon. Lady agree that for that to become effective, there must be much more far-reaching reform of independent directorships following the Higgs review? Does she agree also that at present the largely self- selecting group of non-executive directors means that a few individuals hold far too many directorships and are unable to provide the focus and professional supervision that companies need?
The right hon. Lady has not referred to fraud. Is she consulting the Law Officers on how to introduce a tougher approach to real financial fraud? Are there not still too many cases, such as Allied Carpets a few weeks ago, where crooked directors who steal from their shareholders are treated far more leniently by the criminal justice system than criminals who rob the same amount from a bank? There must be a tough and consistent approach"

"There has been a crisis in capitalism and there is a fundamental lack of trust in corporate behaviour, particularly in independent audits. It is striking that on the three big issues that the Government had to confront-audit rotation, competition policy and conflicts of interests-they have not taken the robust action that one might have expected. I shall pose a series of specific questions. First, on corporate governance and Higgs, I welcome the fact that the Government are now taking the initiative to break up the magic circle and break the incestuous links between non-executive directors. As there will be a demand under the reforms for more non-executive directors, what action will be taken to ensure that the existing community does not take on excessive numbers, which is already happening? Why have the Government not responded to advice to set limits on the number of non-executive directorships and chairmanships?

Will there be UK version of this cartoon

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Its OK2B but its not OK to treat mental health like this government does

2 weeks ago saw the fantastic Big Smile event at Hackney Empire, organised by a charity aimed at removing the stigma from mental illness. It was a great night for a great cause. Please get behind this charity, and if you a famous person, eg an MP, please sign their Statement of Support - if you don't know where then eMail me at

Compare and contrast this with the current government's general apathy in dealing with Mental Health, as shown by Reform in an excellent publication issued last week entitled "Mental health services in the NHS: using reform incentives".

Who did write the Tax Reform Commission Report?

Call me sensitive but I don't think that those of us on the working party got sufficient credit for our efforts. Indeed, some did not get any credit anywhere in the report. I only ever saw the Commission at the launch, the hard and very good work was done by the Special Advisers and Secretariat although I wouldn't underplay say Alistair Craig or my own efforts on Business Taxation and others helped on other chapters.

At least I got a reference to the tome I produced whilst at CCHQ a few times, but lets be honest I wrote a large chunk of The Reform is Possible Chapter. However, I would have liked my proofs that the Australian tax cuts have raised more revenues each time, ie tax cuts create economic stability to have stayed in. ....

Other matters that failed to make the cut, were case studies of Hong Kong and Canada, and the estimate of how much shorter group tax computations would have been. The reason for their omission, almost certainly due to the desire to get the Report down to a sensible length. Hong Kong and Canada tell the same story as the other countries mentioned. If you want a copy then please eMail me at - otherwise they just clutter up my hard drive.

PS - If anyone thought it was me who leaked stuff, you're wrong. I behaved myself at all times and it was privilege and a pleasure to work with the Secretariat.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Boy George struggles at the launch of the Tax Reform Commission

Its a good job that the TRC Report is top quality, because the Press Conference was a mess. Journo after journo lined up to probe Boy George about the £21bn of tax cuts. And he struggled.

George could have defended the concrete proposals before him in terms of the economic growth they would generate, and by questioning the current levels of public expenditure. Instead he bought into the false Dave-Brownian logic that reducing tax rates reduces tax revenues, despite considerable evidence to the contrary in the report he commissioned. And he banged on about environmental taxes, I think you will find George that petrol is taxed quite enough in this country already.

However the killer quote came when Osborne announced

"We will not be proposing a reduction in the level of taxation at the next General Election"

Maybe George would like first read chapters 2, 3 and 4 of the report that show the benefits of reducing tax. He might also like to consider who "We" was in his quote, because I don't think Dave is either strong, or good, enough to fight off the party's desire to cut taxes. It was notable that when asked did Dave and George try and get the TRC to take the tax cuts out of the report, Lord Forsyth didn't even come close to a no.

The case for tax cuts is clear in the TRC Report - if Dave and George should embrace it because the more they argue the contrary the weaker they look.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And the candidate for Thanet South

ain't Charlie Elphicke. And she ain't Eurosceptic either. Don't worry about the lack of a picture you're not missing much.

Here's some of the wit and lack of wisdom of Laura Sandys. The quotes come from different articles.

Europe has asked the Commission to fulfil too many roles. It is not that the Commission needs to become more democratic – in many ways it should be totally divorced from politics. It is that we need to develop an explicitly political and democratic European master under which the Commission can operate.

The European Union (EU) has embarked upon a decisive phase of reappraisal and significant reform. Under the chairmanship of Giscard D’Estaing, a Constitutional Convention is under way. Its aims are greater democratisation, transparency, accountability and a new contract between the governed and governors to be encoded in a new Treaty.

The arrival of a European currency is also changing the nature of interdependency and is having a fundamental impact on people’s perception of their identity. Despite the hitherto low valuation of the Euro, the European economic force is now in the game – and it is only Europe as a whole, not its constituent parts, that make up this force.

The common currency has also resulted in a significant change in Europe’s level of confidence internationally. And, as with all markets, confidence is key to success. The coming recession (Ed - only in the Eurozone) may be bad for everyone, but it looks as if Europe will gain support for its enlarged currency in a period of general weakness.

And some people on ConsHome wondered if she actually was Europhile

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Larger tax on lager, thanks to Brussels stitch-up

The EU has recently announced an increase in the minimum rates of duty on alcohol, ie your German / Czech half-litre will cost more. Alcohol duties have to be set within a range determined by the EU, its one area where tax harmonisation already exists to a limited extent. The increases are calculated and presented as inflationary.

Consequently several member states will have to increase duties on beer and whiskey. But not on wine, as the minimum duty is nil, which when multiplied by an inflationary factor still comes to nil. So at least the maths ability of the EC is improving. They might even get their 1994 accounts drawn up within the next decade at this rate of progress.

This isn't harmonisation to ensure that the internal market functions smoothly. Nor is it an attempt to reduce smuggling, that would be best done by UK Customs being more efficient or UK duties reducing, or failing that forcing France and the UK, and Sweden and Denmark to align their rates.

Its protectionism for the European wine industry by enabling Continental Member States, in fact 7 of them, to avoid having duty on wine, whilst charging, and being forced to charge duty on competitor products, eg UK spirits and Eastern European beer. Curiously, there are a number of State Aid cases going on throughout Europe whereby a specialist tax relief available to a particular region or industry is held to be an illegal subsidy. The TaxCutter fails to see why not levying duty on wine, whilst levying duty on other alcoholic beverages, is not similarly illegal state aid. And the answer is because the EU applies the rules based on political not legal analysis.

How does this affect the UK. Predictably, UK duties already exceed the new minimums.

To get to this answer, the Commission wrote to Member States asking for the information to compile their analysis. Here's what help they got:

"We have received data on excise rates and consumption from some member states, but not all. We received comprehensive replies from Austria, Belgium, Germany,Denmark, Finland, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. We received partial information from Greece and Portugal. We have not received data on excise rates from France, Italy and Luxembourg and data from these countries had to be completed using other sources."


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dave the Irrelevant

Call me old-fashioned but aren't you meant to do your gap year between school and university, rather than between party leader and Prime Minister.

Whilst New Labour falls apart, with widespread criticism of the government's failure on crime, tax, health and education Dave tries to write the Not-so-Rough Guide to Asia.

Law and order is in a shocking state, but its David Davis scoring all the points against the opposition. British troops get killed in Afghanistan, but DC doesn't call Blair to account for broken promises. Education standards slip again, but where are DC's reforms to raise standards. The A-List has been ignored by party members, and reforms to the employment of Party Agents and local campaigning strategies have not been heard of. Dave taunts Gordon Brown as being the Fossil-Fuel Chancellor but about the only remaining supporter of Brown's attitude to taxation is DC's guru Oliver Letwin.

And in the meantime, the wider party is leading public opinion on tax cuts, a broken windows law and order policy, continued Euroscepticism, and greater choice in health and education. The new political agenda for the UK is being set by rightwing bloggers representing the wider Conservative party. DC just goes on holiday and rides his bike. Dave better jump on the bus quick, because its moving forward, in the right direction, and sooner or later it will work out that it doesn't need the current designated driver.