Searching for what isn’t there?

When I studied economics around the time Americans elected their first septuagenarian president, everything was made to look simple. After decades of the complex world according to John Maynard Keynes,  Milton Friedman dug up an old equation of Irving Fisher, and Monetarism and its Rational Expectations offshoot were launched at the inflation-tired leaders of the…

It’s all about the (zero) ratings, stupid

When it comes to morality, Value Added Tax has no claim to Kant’s categorical imperatives, nor Utilitarianism’s mission to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number. As a regressive tax on consumption, it eats away disproportionately at the income of the poor, who spend a significantly higher proportion of their income on vatable goods…

Apple bites back

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates is presented with the cynical argument that the appearance of justice is more important than the reality of it, an idea taken up two millennia later by Machiavelli in The Prince. The General Court of the European Union’s rejection yesterday of the EU Commission’s claim that Ireland had given illegal state…

Two roads diverged…

For the last three and a half months I have felt like the protagonist in Monty Python’s ‘The Day Nothing Happened’. As the real world has been fighting to keep its COVID-19 head above water, the tax world has been treading water. A recent Israeli court case that surfaced last week, however, jolted the rose-tinted…

Kids’ stuff

In A.S. Byatt’s 2009 masterpiece ‘The Children’s Book’, the reader has one horrible advantage over the predominantly young characters in the novel. As they gradually grow and mature through the closing years of the 19th century and the Edwardian decade that followed, the carefree youngsters are surrounded by art and privilege, several poignantly attending the…

The postman doesn’t even ring once

Charles Dickens spent much of his literary career railing against the demonic effects of 19th century bureaucracy. He could just as well have been writing today. Unfortunately, now as then, most of us obediently accept the nonsense thrown at us by the nation’s institutions, because – once solved - we don’t have the time, patience…

The People’s Court

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first performance of the classic satirical farce ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, in which two policeman under investigation for the death of a suspect in their custody weave a web of increasingly improbable explanations as to how he fell out of the interrogation room window. I don’t…

Keeping VAT off the streets

When people refer to ‘tax evasion’, they are rarely talking about VAT. The criminal non-payment of VAT, as distinct from its elder siblings - Income Tax and Corporate Tax, is universally known as VAT Fraud. The name reflects none of the grudging respect for the brilliant wheezes of talented white collar crooks . No, sir.…

Is the law an ass?

Last Sunday, the High Court clipped the wig of a first-class judge - and the tax community in general - in a landmark decision overturning a lower court’s ruling. It reminded me of the reaction I received from a tax authority official to an article I wrote at the turn of the century for a…

The Windsor Saga

  One of the perennial challenges of the writers of successful soap operas is finding original ways to write actors, who have had enough, out of the script. They can’t all be sent off to Canada, and the public sometimes doesn’t like what it gets. When, broadcast on Christmas Day 2012,  Downton Abbey’s Matthew Crawley…