Ritchie wants three jobs now

The Board of HMRC should be reconstituted so that it is representative of a broad range of taxpayers including:

Large business;
Small business;
Civil society
Trade unions
The investment community

He’d be the member for charities, civil society and also unions, no?

Oooh, no, fourth job!

HMRC has claimed that it is more accountable in recent years because of its widespread use of consultations on proposed legislation. This, however, is a charade.

It takes some expertise, and the expenditure of quite a lot of effort, to respond to many of the consultations documents that HMRC issues. Many civil society organisations, smaller business, and other organisations lack the expertise to respond appropriately to HMRC without being able to buy professional advice to ensure submissions are relevant and all too often the resources to let them buy such advice are not available to them. The consequence is that almost all consultation submissions to HMRC come from large businesses and their advisers, and are not, therefore, representative of the community as a whole, and such consultations do, therefore, fail any reasonable test of democratic process.

If HMRC is serious about consultation, and really wants to hear the informed opinion of a broad range of representative bodies in the UK, then it must be willing to provide grants to those who have shown aptitude or willingness to make submission to such processes, with some prior vetting to ensure that resources are allocated appropriately being necessary. Only in this way can representative democracy with regard to taxation be guaranteed.

HMRC should pay Ritchie to write his reports.

30 thoughts on “Ritchie wants three jobs now”

  1. Don’t forget he’s also angling to be head of his new Office for Tax Responsibility. Whoever came up with the moniker LHTD was spot on.

    (I also see he’s leaning heavily on his accountant credentials today, unlike his economic, legal and technology non-credentials he often calls on.)

    Despite him mentioning it frequently, I’ve never known what “Civil Society” actually means.

    A quick look at Wikipedia reveals it’s an amalgam of Marxist thinking, NGOs and a general “anti-neoliberalism”.

    So pretty much bollocks then.

  2. According to the Beeb, “Civil society is a term that’s increasingly popular with government ministers, academics, diplomats, aid-workers, international agencies, teachers and a host of other professions.”

    Tells you all you really need to know.

  3. I can only imagine the derision I am going to get for this, but there is actually a public goods argument for funding civil society organizations. Same goes for newspaper etc. Doesn’t mean necessarily mean they should be state subsidizes, perhaps philanthropists and others means of raising revenue, but the basic economic arguments around private investors not fully internalising the returns to journalism etc. apply here.

    Although there is a public bad argument against funding Richard.

  4. Papers have a means of raising money–its called sales. If people don’t want the bollocks they sell then they vanish. They are already vanishing in slow motion–not quickly enough. As for private finance–if the will/desire was there what is stop people from raising money now? Socialist pukes have to be taxpayer financed because very few want to read/hear the evil garbage they peddle.

  5. Luis

    As a right wing economist, am fully with you on the public good argument for civil society. But there is always the threat of Mancur Olsen’s sclerosis and interest groups in this of course.

    At this moment we see an issue over the lack of a decent funding model for investigative journalism. Yet clearly having some people watching for cash for honours etc is a good thing.

  6. ken

    I have often wondered about a mechanism whereby the originators of a story are identified – hopefully using some self-regulated system in which those who come up with a scoop claim it and others would have to challenge – and then other newspapers or new aggregators that run that story would have to pay a small commission. I figure this is the sort of thing that might become more feasible online than in print.

  7. Communities, NGos and charities can already get grants to get the professional help needed to respond to such consultations.
    Has to be relevant to their purpose – so a taxpayer organisation could probably get funding, oxfam not so much. Nothing to say those organisations that do raise their own funds for things such as trade unions, businesses etc cannot arrange to pay for professional help with something.
    Same way they arrange to pay for other bills and other professional help.

  8. @ Luis Enrique
    Under the previous government there *was* a state subsidy to the Grauniad (but only the Grauniad) in the form of paying it to advertise all middle class public sector jobs

  9. GlenDorran

    Civil Society is an old term – from recollection it used to mean those beings and organizations ‘independent of the state’, which given how Murphy employs it means his definition of it cannot be its historical use. Trawling through Wikipedia and associated links elsewhere in the more visible part of the web, like many phrases it seems to have morphed so that it is very much a question of perspective as to what, precisely, it implies.

    Detail and nuance are not Murphy’s strong points (indeed one could argue that to use the term ‘strong point’ in the same sentence as Murphy is an oxymoron) but it seems to mean ‘ people who agree with me.’ It might have been yourself or the Bloke in costa rica who described it as a ‘mythical fascist dictatorship run along the lines of the couraqeous state’ – sums it up.

  10. So what’s the ’employees’ entry, and why do unions get a separate seat? If it’s general employees, it’s two bites of the cherry for unions. If it’s HMRC employees, then unless you’re arguing a govt arm can’t manage it’s way out of a paper bag, wtf?

    If you’ve got businesses, employees, and pensioners, what’s left for civil society? I’m guessing it’s more likely ‘fair tax’ prodnoses and busybodies rather than, say, people arguing about VAT, stealth and sin taxes.

    john77 has already queried the charities entry, which in any case is a question for Parliament as to how much tax relief to extend, nothing to do with HMRC. Unless you’re trying to give Richie-types a fourth seat at the table through lobbing fake-charities.

    Lastly, ‘the investment community’ seems terribly coy. Given this is supposed to cut down on big business influence, and Richie has been peddling green investment banks etc, I’m somehow doubting he’s offering VCs and big banks a separate seat on the board for ‘large businesses’. Seat #5?

  11. Oh, and he’s rather showing his colours in the comments:

    disqualifying those ‘involved in promoting tax avoidance’ is ‘essential’. so Fair Tax Markers, then? Going to be a short list of candidates for ‘large business’ and ‘the investment community’.

  12. @john77

    Are we certain that the subsidy has been removed? I know they said they would, but I’ve not seen anything about it since.

  13. @ ken
    Yes, government jobs are now searchable on the internet. Under Labour the Guardian had a monopoly

  14. How does having so so extreme Leftwing nutters from ‘charities’, unions etc make anything more “democratically accountable”? Who are they accountable to?

  15. john77

    In deference I believe it was Blair who switched it so that I think the Times also had access to the Public Sector advertising for certain departments, but I agree from 1997 to I think ’04 the Guardian’s Society section had a total monopoly, to the extent I think the ASI attempted to quantify the amount these jobs were costing the taxpayer and the Daily Mail ran articles outlining for those ‘not in the know’ the rather arcane selection methods for the positions….

  16. Rob

    Never ask Ritchie that question – I have on many occasions asked him who he is ‘accountable’ to. Who elected or even nominated him to his pre-eminence (at least in his own mind?) amongst civil society? – the silence was deafening – until I became a ‘Troll’, ‘neoliberal’, ‘follower of Uncle Timmy’, ‘pedant’, ‘multi-headed hydra’ etc,etc

  17. Alex, pensioners pay taxes in the same way employees do. When their income is above their tax allowance.
    I am related to 4 pensioners, 2 pay income tax and 2 do not. All 4 pay other taxes including VAT.

    Lets see – civil society and charities – they may or may not pay corporation tax but do pay other taxes. And will probably have an interest in such matters as gift aid, VAT that is claimable etc.
    Trade unions? Yes not a big fan.

  18. @ Martin Davies
    “Civil Society” is a concept and as such has no taxable income.
    Some pensioners pay tax, but not all do so: Murphy’s categorisation implying that pensioners are one of the main categories of taxpayer, rather than a group of *people*, some of whom pay tax, is deliberately misleading. Charities do not pay corporation tax nor Vat on their charitable activities and the vast majority have no paid employees so no payroll tax or NI (I have been, at various times, Hon Treasurer of getting on for a dozen charities).
    Self-employed people like me pay tax – but we must not be represented: why? Because we would not agree with PCS and its shill.

  19. So Much for Subtlety

    Luis Enrique – “I can only imagine the derision I am going to get for this, but there is actually a public goods argument for funding civil society organizations. Same goes for newspaper etc. Doesn’t mean necessarily mean they should be state subsidizes, perhaps philanthropists and others means of raising revenue, but the basic economic arguments around private investors not fully internalising the returns to journalism etc. apply here.”

    The problem is that not all Civil Society organisations are alike. Just as no newspaper is alike. You cannot say that all newspapers are valuable because the newspaper sector as a whole has some benefit. We would all be better off without the Guardian for instance. We are not better off without the News of the World.

    Which is the problem with state funding. A fake civil society organisation, that is to say virtually all of them, makes Britain a worse place. ASH is a good example. These days so is the RSPCA. If you are not dealing with a genuine civil society organisation but a small group of nutters, then having the State fund them only raises their profile to a position they do not deserve. The Howard League for instance is mostly malicious in its influence. They ought to be left to sink or swim on their own.

    So there isn’t a case really.

  20. Rob – my reading of it is that Murphy considers that he is acting in the interests of ordinary people. He is therefore pushing the agenda that they would push, if they had the chance, and so is to all intents and purposes their representative.

    Going along with what he says therefore makes you “democratically accountable”, because what you are doing is in accordance with the will of the people.

    We know it’s the will of the people because it’s what Murphy says; and we know that what he says is the will of the people because if it weren’t he wouldn’t say it.

  21. john77 – pensioners are taxpayers as a group in the same way that workers are.
    Individuals may have income below the tax threshold but they have income. Its only due to the tax system that not all of them pay tax.
    Charities do not pay corporation tax? Thats news to the 190,000 charities then some of whom do indeed have a corporation tax bill. VAT can indeed be payable on certain spending, you would think some organisation that gets to avoid VAT on part of its spending would have an interest in keeping that exemption and increasing it!
    The charities who want to grow, expand, provide services on a bigger scale tend to at some point take on paid staff. May not be many staff but can be required. Some group wants to run a soup kitchen 2 nights a week can almost certainly get away with volunteers only. Some group wanting to run a 24 hour care facility for the homeless is almost certainly going to have to have some paid staff. The best charities manage on a mix of paid and volunteer staff.
    Have been a treasurer, have been a volunteer with several charities, have been a paid member of staff at one twice.

  22. @ Martin Davies
    Read my words, not my lips which you cannot see.
    “Charities do not pay corporation tax nor Vat on their charitable activities”
    This should not news to any charity.
    Activities on which they pay tax are not charitable activities and should not be carried out by the charity.

  23. @ Martin Davies
    The large majority of Charities (as distinct from the majority of large charities) have no wish to grow because they are carrying out the wishes of the person who originally endowed the charity and, in most cases, they cannot lawfully do so.
    If they suddenly find that they have more income than they can use for their original purpose the Charity Commission will help them to arrange a deed of variation, or whatever it is now called, to use that income for a charitable purpose as close to their original mandate as is practicable. That does not necessarily require employing people. I vaguely recall one charity that was established to provide bread and coal to poor people in a small area of the City of London, which had the first clean-air zone, banning the burning of coal, in the world; by the 1970s poor people in that area were as scarce as coal fires (any people were nearly as scarce as businesses occupied the region) so its terms were revised to (I think) relief of poverty in the surrounding area. That did not require any paid employee whatsoever: two elderly churchwardens did all the work with the Rector and Church Treasurer checking any payments.
    On a potentially controversial point: any charity that wants to expand its remit prompts me to ask: why? There can be good reasons but … Oxfam multiplied its size in terms of income and charitable expenditure while Jeffrey Archer rtasn it without changing its remit by one one dot (I have personal reasons to dislike Jeffrey Archer but he did make Oxfam a major force for good from a small local charity in the 60s and 70s).
    Over my lifetime I have been a volunteer for enough charities to have lost count but I have never been paid – on one occasion I got dragooned into acting as Verger when the real Verger was off sick and had to allocate the Verger’s fee to something else and chose an associated charity that benefited the poor.

  24. “I have personal reasons to dislike Jeffrey Archer”

    Everyone has personal reasons to dislike Jeffrey Archer.

    I’ve never been formally involved in charities, other than through unpaid volunteering. My father has served as treasurer and other roles with a number of small charities similar to the ones you describe, including winding one up that was no longer relevant. All that you have said rings true.

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