Category Archives: Taxation

COVID-19 bulletin 30: post lockdown, government has the resources to invest and reflate the economy

Professor Sikka advocates investment to rebuild the economy of Britain, which entered the coronavirus crisis with poor social infrastructure and deep inequalities. Points made in two of his recent articles.

The crisis showed that the low-paid workers such as nurses, midwives, care workers, supermarket staff, teachers and bus and delivery drivers were the lifeline of society. Detailed figures for the cuts to the police and NHS are given in his May article

Treasury documents leaked to The Telegraph show a government blueprint for recovering £300bn of the costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

  • It lists government plans to scrap the triple-lock on the state pension the main source of income for many, which is around 29% of average earnings, the lowest among industrialised nations. The proportion of retirees living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986. So there is no economic or moral case for hitting retirees.
  • There is already talk of further wage freezes for public sector workers.
  • Influential think tanks like the Institute for Fiscal Studieshave called for a cut to the minimum wage.
  • The Social Market Foundation is urging the government to hit the state pension, already one of the lowest in the western world.

Sikka (right) describes the government’s post-coronavirus economic strategy as, “more austerity, hit the poor, cut essential services”. And continues:

We have the money to build a better society after this crisis: there is no shortage of resources

With record low interest rates, government can borrow to invest and reflate the economy – just as the economy was rebuilt after the Second World War – and the subsequent prosperity enabled governments to reduce the public debt.

He adds that the government can use its overdraft facility known as the “ways and means” facility at the Bank of England. The Treasury has used £400m so far and during the 2008 recession it used £19.8bn.

The Bank of England is using its £645bn quantitative easing programme, i.e. printing money, to support purchase of corporate bonds. The government could use the same process to bail out the poor by buying their debts.

Economist Martin Wolf agrees in the FT today: “It is equally vital to support the economy for as long as is needed to ensure a full recovery. Given the Bank of England’s welcome and sensible support, the government can afford to borrow on a huge scale and must be willing to do so”.   

Tax related measures advocated include raising additional tax revenues without increasing the basic rate of income tax or national insurance contributions. Investment in HMRC and curbing offshore tax avoidance could raise billions.

But corporations are already undermining our welfare

Sikka points out that the government has given billions of pounds to businesses in the form of business rates holidays, wage subsidies, cheap loans and guarantees; all without any obligations to safeguard jobs. This has freed corporations to reduce wages and cut or downgrade the jobs of workers; examples cited in detail in his June article relate to British AirwaysBam ConstructRyanairDaily Mirror, Daily Express and P&O.

Cuts to public services will damage the private sector which is the main supplier 

Wage and pension cuts will severely erode people’s purchasing power; they will not be able to buy goods/services produced by businesses and the economy will stall.

But the Conservative government – with its large parliamentary majority – is not in a mood to listen. Shall we on the left be able to reposition people’s awareness and press the government to change its policies?

The new economy must work for everyone, not just shareholders and financial speculators. Parliament needs to make the right choices and build a sustainable economy by investing, creating resilient public services and boosting people’s purchasing power. 

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Sources:

https://leftfootforward.org/2020/06/elites-will-use-this-crisis-to-reshape-the-state-we-have-to-push-back/

https://leftfootforward.org/2020/05/prof-prem-sikka-we-must-rebuild-not-tax-and-cut/

 

Prem Sikka is Professor of Accounting at University of Sheffield and Emeritus Professor of Accounting at University of Essex. He is a Contributing Editor to LFF and tweets here.

 

 

 

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COVID-19 bulletin 17: should corporate bailouts be restricted?

Amid criticism of attempts by business owners such as Sir Richard Branson to receive government help, senior clergy have written to the press saying that companies registered in offshore tax havens should be refused corporate bailouts.

On April 25th, Business Insider reported that France is now barring firms registered in offshore tax havens from its government coronavirus bailout, following similar bans in Denmark and Poland.

And as Tata Steel – though continuing to pay out handsome dividends – seeks about £500m in government support, Richard Bravo in BloombergPolitics questions government spending on large but struggling companies.

He notes that European governments are proposing to spend more than $2 trillion supporting national industries amid the coronavirus pandemic and asks: “throwing good money after bad?“ (Paywall)

Many of the companies looking for bailouts, such as Air France-KLM and Renault SA, were struggling long before Covid-19 ground the continent’s economies to a halt. Bravo points out that these governments might be creating scores of national zombies that will require taxpayer support long after the crisis has passed. More detail in Regina Leader Post.

He suggests that decision-makers will be weighing the political costs of allowing companies which support national export markets and create thousands of well-paying, middle class jobs to fail.

Yesterday’s FT editorial warned that the judgment from the court of public opinion may be harsh – and after such criticism, Shake Shack, the US burger chain, decided to return the $10m it had received under their government’s bailout for small business. The verdict of the Moseley reader who sent the lead to this article: “No company should be too big to fail !!”

The FT advised firms seeking bailouts to curb excessive executive pay and governments to award payments only to those placing a moratorium on share buybacks and dividend payments. 

 

 

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Government faces a judicial review about short-changing 1950s women

In an earlier post Political Concern reported that 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks.

“Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor”- (lawyer/novelist John Grisham)

Waspi, a UK-wide organisation with many local groups, is campaigning against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised, whilst supporting the principle of equality.

One, the Chorley Supporters Group, is denouncing the government who arbitrarily told them to work for several extra years before they can claim their state pensions, causing them to lose income and peace of mind and obliging many to continue to work at a time of life when caring duties increase and energy levels start to fall. Read more in the Lancashire Evening Post.

Writing to the Financial Times they say: “It is about time the spotlight was turned on this government, which has effectively stolen the security net of millions of women by raising the state pension age far quicker than planned, with no personal notification”.

On the BBC’s World at One programme one of many testimonies was given:

Stella Taylor: “I was born in 1955, I had worked all of my life and, when I became unwell at just about the age of 58 I then discovered, quite accidentally, that my State Pension, which I was expecting to receive at 60, had been moved six whole years to sixty-six. And, like so many women in this movement, we were just aghast. We thought there must be a mistake. Had I received my pension at sixty, when I had expected to, I wouldn’t have been wealthy by anybody’s standards, but I wouldn’t have been in the depths of poverty that I now am. At the moment, because I am still unable to work due to ill health, I receive seventy three pounds and ten pence per week in Employment Support Allowance. Living, and paying all your household bills, out of that £73 a week is impossible. There are times when I have needed to use my local food bank because I haven’t been able to afford groceries.” More testimonies here. 

On February 10ththe BBC reported the warning of Amber Rudd, the pensions secretary, which should be extended to her own department:

”If you chronically mismanage a pension scheme . . . we’re coming for you.”

After pointing out that a freedom of information request has revealed recent research findings that the government reneged on their contributions to the national insurance fund over many years and redirected that money towards paying off the national debt, the Chorley Supporters Group asks:

“How government can expect other public or private institutions in this country to play fair with pension funds when it is not doing so itself”.

On February 11th, the government published a research briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. up

This unexpected rise in the state pension age will now “save” the Treasury an estimated £8bn by impoverishing 1950s women.

MP Grahame Morris pointed out that the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Conservative MPs support the Waspi campaign.

He added that Landman Economics’ report gives the figure of £8bn savings to government and suggests that this sum should be seen in the wider context of current or planned government finance. Some examples follow: (Ed: links added):

FT Adviser reports that SNP MP Mhairi Black earlier pointed out that the National Insurance Fund is projected to have a substantial surplus at the end of 2017 to 2018 and the HMRC’s report confirms that the National Insurance Fund balance at 31 March 2018 was £24.2 billion and is expected to increase in the following year.

Morris ends: “In this context, finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice . . . We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women”.

Next June the government faces a judicial review in the High Court to determine whether these recent increases to women’s state pension age are lawful and the Chorley Supporters Group, Chrissie Fuller, Jane Morwood, Betty Ann Tucker, Riley Ann Rochester, Beverley Cordwell, Lea Butler and Lesley Kirkham end by warning that they will not rest until justice is done.

 

 

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The Financial Times offers two perspectives on the shadow chancellor’s economic proposals

Earlier this month the FT warmed to the shadow chancellor. Following Jim Pickard’s first respectful report on any aspect of Labour policy, an article, by Jim O’Neill, chair of the Chatham House think-tank and former Treasury minister, had the headline, “The UK opposition steps into an economic void left by a government grappling with Brexit”.

 

Following a couple of caveats, O’Neill writes: “In at least six policy areas, which Mr Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell are treating as priorities, businesses and the government need to catch up (detail here)”.

  • The first area on which Labour sees clearly is Britain’s productivity crisis.
  • Second is the orthodox belief that lower corporation tax will magically boost investment spending.
  • Third, risking large amounts of money on fixed investment no longer appears attractive.
  • Fourth, businesses need to rediscover profit with purpose.
  • Finally, there is the housing crisis.

But today there was a decided change of direction – had the editorial board been leant on?

THE EDITORIAL BOARD: Labour’s economic plans have serious flaws: shadow chancellor John McDonnell is ignoring the realities of modern business. The following – mainly speculative – points fail to convince:

  1. Mr McDonnell’s most eye-catching announcement was a compulsory share ownership scheme. Employee ownership and other profit-sharing schemes are by no means outlandish. Many businesses already choose to run them in order to recruit and motivate their workforce. There are also sound political reasons to give employees a greater share of ownership and a bigger voice on boards after a decade in which wages have remained stagnant in real terms. But companies should not be coerced into taking such action.
  2. Mr McDonnell claims these proposals are designed to tackle Britain’s productivity crisis – the evidence for this is sketchy and outdated.
  3. It could increase the cost of capital and deter investment.
  4. As the scheme would bear only on employers with more than 250 workers, it could also disincentivise growing businesses.
  5. There is a real danger that Labour’s prescriptions may end up only harming the patient.
  6. Businesses (and many voters) are concerned that the proposals on the table may only be the tip of Labour’s interventionist ambitions.
  7. With Brexit representing a step into the unknown, however, the UK needs to preserve business and economic stability, not further radical experimentation

Then a reversion to something approaching approval

“Nationalisation, dilution of shareholdings, workers on boards, sweeping trade union powers — John McDonnell’s economic prospectus for Britain is the Labour party’s most radical in several decades. The shadow chancellor further developed the party’s socialist credentials in his address to its conference in Liverpool on Monday. He senses that the appetite for change is great enough to take Labour into office on a hard-left ticket at the next election”. And: “Labour’s policies do speak to the mood of many voters. Many Britons believe inequality is growing, public services are collapsing and the excesses of capitalism need taming”.

Though not as wholehearted as the conclusion of former Treasury minister O’Neill:Dealing with the UK’s deep-seated economic problems requires sustained thinking and attention, not just occasional lip service. The Labour Party has stepped into the vacuum left by the government and appears to be offering the radical change that people seek.

End note: email from Moseley hit harder than the editorial board: 

  • Looking forward to a rise in the number of companies with 249 employees, if any stay in the UK, should the nightmare come about at the next election ( Ed: as share ownership proposals apply only to companies with over 250 employees).
  • The shadow Treasury team admits that private, unlisted companies could not be compelled to hand out dividends to workers. In theory that could incentivise public companies to delist from the stock market.
  • The next problem is that foreign-listed companies will not be obliged to hand equity to their UK workforces. Again, that could provide an incentive for London-listed companies to switch their listings to an alternative financial centre such as New York or Frankfurt.
  • Nor is it clear how the British government could force an overseas company with a London listing to comply with the scheme if most of its workers are abroad.
  • One group of workers who could feel aggrieved by the proposals are those in the privatised utilities such as rail and water. Labour is determined to nationalise the utilities, and admits that — as state workers — staff would no longer be eligible for the share scheme. At present a third of employees in United Utilities participate in their employee share scheme, as do two thirds of South West Water employees and 70 per cent of Severn Trent’s UK employees.
  • Another complication is that some companies could find alternative routes to rewarding shareholders, for example by carrying out share buybacks instead of dividends.

 

 

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Should the Green Party join Corbyn Labour and fight together for social justice and for the planet?

Owen Jones suggests that the Green Party should join Jeremy Corbyn and fight together for social justice and for the planet: “For those attracted to the Green message of a “peaceful political revolution” to end austerity, Corbynism seemed like a natural new home”.

He thinks it is time for the Green Party to join forces with Labour, unite the English and Welsh left under one banner, bring one of the country’s most inspiring politicians into the spotlight and reinvigorate the campaign to save the planet from environmental destruction, adding:

“It’s exactly the arrangement that has existed between Labour and the Co-operative Party for nine decades: indeed, there are 38 MPs who belong to both. Rather than proving the death of green politics, such a pact would give it new life”.

In an act of political sacrifice at the last election, the Green Party stood down candidates across the country to avoid splitting the left-of-centre vote.

A pact could be made, creating the sort of relationship the Co-op Party has with Labour, with dual Labour/Green membership.

There would be Labour/Green MPs just as there are Labour/Co-op MPs today

Significantly more Green MPs would be elected. Climate change would become a genuine political priority. It should also mean Caroline Lucas in the shadow cabinet – and later in government with the environment brief. This would end a pointless division on the British left. Owen Jones continues:

“Lucas herself has been a committed fighter for causes that must be central to Labour’s message. She was right to criticise pre-2015 Labour for failing to challenge the “austerity message”, and has opposed cuts to everything from women’s refuges to schools. Her courage in fighting climate change led to her arrest at an anti-fracking protest in 2013.In many ways, her campaigning zeal echoes that of Corbyn, who she has repeatedly fought alongside. Indeed, it is hardly controversial to point out that Corbyn is closer to Lucas politically than he is to many of his own MPs, and yet absurdly Lucas is a political opponent”.

“Yes, the Green leadership wants Labour to go further – on everything from committing to a shorter working week to more radical taxation. But as someone who agrees with her – that Labour’s offer is not yet radical enough – I believe the Greens’ influence in pushing for greater radicalism would be strengthened, not diluted, in a formal pact”. He ends – after recognising the opposition from some within both parties:

“A red-green alliance is surely overdue. this could be the makings of a formidable political alliance to defeat Toryism and form a government to eradicate social injustice and help save the planet. And surely that prize makes the pain of overcoming partisan differences worthwhile”.

 

Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/22/greens-labour-jeremy-corbyn

 

 

 

 

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FT: Populism is failing, but it is too soon to cheer: tame it and regain control!

The Financial Times’ Philip Stephens focusses on what he calls ‘populism’. He deplores the ‘electoral insurgency’ of the past few years leading to far-left and far-right parties winning significant vote shares across Europe.

After highlighting the failures and inconsistencies of the Trump government and the Brexit negotiations he warns the ‘hardliners’ in Mrs May’s cabinet that their choice is between:

  • swallowing a softer version of Brexit
  • or breaking with the prime minister
  • so risking a general election and a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Adding “It is just possible that Brexit may prove too difficult to actually happen”

Last year Business Insider reported that the former head of the British civil service, Gus O’Donnell, told an LSE event that politicians need to focus on voters’ feelings of wellbeing to counter the rise of populism and win elections.

Linked to http://uk.businessinsider.com/gus-odonnell-focus-on-wellbeing-to-counter-populism-2016-12

His Times colleague, Gideon Rachman adds:The belief that the economic system is unjust has stoked the rise of rightwing and leftwing populism across the west”.

He continued by saying that until the shocks of 2008, centrist politicians in the west were able to offer a morally coherent view of the economy: a free-market economy would reward effort and spread opportunity. The creation of the global market system was reducing inequality and poverty across the world.

After the financial crisis, however, the “globalists” (to use a Trumpian term) began to lose the moral arguments and – Rachman continued – the fact that banks were bailed out as living standards stagnated, offended many voters’ idea of natural justice.

Stephens’ advice: centrist parties will win back support only when they separate populist leaders from their supporters — when they recognise that those voting for extremists are not by and large the “deplorables” described by Hillary Clinton and – belatedly – he admits those voters have real grievances — economic, social and cultural and offers a strategy to win back their lost support:

“Map an alternative route for society’s left-behinds”, not to do them justice, but because it is expedient:

Long-discarded notions should be disinterred:

  • progressive taxation,
  • active competition policy
  • and social equity

He ended lamely by asking: “And what, after all, was actually wrong with the social market economy?”

 

 

 

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A ‘racket’? Government departments and regulators are protecting elites by covering up large corporations’ failures

The growing public awareness of this unholy alliance is leading to a rapidly increasing loss of confidence in our institutions of democracy, lower tax revenues, and cuts in healthcare, pensions, education and infrastructure spend.

Professor Prem Sikka’s latest article scathingly outlines the way in which regulatory bodies and government departments are protecting elites and corporations from retribution.

He cites seven examples, the latest being the refusal of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s banking regulator, to publish its 361-page report on misconduct at the state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The 2013 Tomlinson Report showed that instead of rescuing struggling businesses, banks made money by asset-stripping and destroying them. This was followed-up an investigation by the FCA and in November 2016 it published what purported to be a summary of its full report. Subsequently, the BBC obtained a leaked version of the report. It referred to “inappropriate action” by RBS’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG).

The inappropriate action experienced by 92% of the businesses included complex loans, higher interest rates, and unnecessary fees. Businesses could not easily return to good health.

For the period 2013-2015, GRG handled 16,000 companies – and about 10% survived. Many ended up in administration and liquidation, with their assets were sold cheaply. RBS has set aside around £400 million to deal with possible claims.

The secret FCA report is not only an indictment of RBS, but also of other banks, accountants and lawyers. People are entitled to see the full scale of the scandal, and remedial legislation cannot be drafted without sight of the whole report. Yet the regulator’s impulse is to shield RBS and its accomplices.

Professor Sikka’s comment: “We can’t afford this racket” refers to the ‘knock-on effect’ as lower tax revenues (and a self-centred, heartless ideology?) lead to cuts in healthcare, pensions, education, public services and infrastructure spending.

 

 

 

 

https://leftfootforward.org/2017/10/six-ways-the-uks-regulatory-system-is-a-protection-racket-for-the-elite/

FT: a strange blend of truth and spleen unwittingly affirms Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘superannuated socialist’ stance

The FT’s Philip Stephens, Tony Blair’s biographer, pertinently remarks:Today’s elites should ask themselves just when it became acceptable for politicians to walk straight from public office into the boardroom; for central bank chiefs to sell themselves to US investment banks; and for business leaders to pay themselves whatever they pleased”. He continues:

“Now as after 1945, the boundaries between public and private have to change. At its simplest, establishing trust is about behaviour. . . The lesson Europe’s postwar political leaders drew from the societal collapses of the 1930s was that a sustainable equilibrium between democracy and capitalism had been shattered by market excesses.

“Citizens were unwilling to accept a model for the market that handed all the benefits to elites and imposed the costs on the poor. In the US, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal. Europe waited until the continent had been reduced to rubble in 1945 before building what the British called the welfare state and continental governments called the European social model. Economic prosperity and political stability were the rewards.

“The present generation of politicians should learn from the experience. Defending a status quo that is manifestly unfair in its distribution of wealth and opportunity serves only to put weapons in the hands of populists . . .

“One way to start redrawing the boundaries would be to take on the big corporate monopolies that have eschewed wealth creation for rent-seeking; to oblige digital behemoths such as Google and Apple to pay more than token amounts of tax; to ensure immigration does not drive down wages; and to put in place worthwhile training alongside flexible markets”.

The difference: Corbyn would act for altruistic reasons, but thepresent generation of politicians’ concede only to retain privilege

Stephens (right) ends by saying that what we need is a social market economy – combining the central elements of a free market (private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices) and universal health care, old-age pension and unemployment insurance as part of an extensive social security system

And most of this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour party leader, wholeheartedly supports. Though dismissed by Stephens as a ‘superannuated socialist’, he would uphold and enhance the system presently faced with public disgust at the ‘fat-cat’ political-corporate revolving door with its rewards for failure. This disgust is combined with anger at the austerity regime imposed by those currently in power, which prevents local authorities from continuing basic public services and deprives some of the least fortunate of food and decent housing.

 

 

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Introducing Political Barb: “Chocolate, Weapons and War”

It’s that time of year again, or more accurately one of those two times of year. The time when the right-wing media works itself into a frenzy over perceived slights against Christianity.

Steve Beauchampé points out that the Daily Telegraph, in a move made to bolster profits, forces many of its staff to work producing a paper on Easter Sunday (and Christmas Day), just as it expects newsagents to open on Easter Sunday to sell that day’s version of the Telegraph and help to raise those profits and the remuneration paid to its senior staff.

Despite this it feels able to ‘froth at the mouth’, claiming that the National Trust was ‘airbrushing’ Easter’. He highlights the ‘faux anger’ generated by a joint National Trust/Cadbury event called the Great Egg Hunt (omitting the word Easter) –  the National Trust website, though it uses the word Easter 13,000 times, and because one of Cadburys best-selling products is called a creme egg – not a creme Easter egg.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Theresa May finds time in her busy schedule of hawking arms and British military expertise to the tyrannical rulers of Oman, Jordan and the daddy of all despots, Saudi Arabia, to call the absence of the word Easter in the NT/Cadbury promotion “absolutely ridiculous”.

 

This, as she should be saying: “the United Kingdom is in danger of fracturing apart and Sturgeon’s running rings around me, I’ve got a generally weak hand to play in the Brexit negotiations whatever Duncan-Smith tells you and I daren’t lose Gibraltar because it’s a British military base and one of our numerous off-shore tax havens, particularly attractive to casinos …and you’re bothering me with this!!?”

The Daily Telegraph is bothered about the word Easter being missed off the title of a children’s hunt for chocolate eggs:

  • one week after the UK served notification of its intention to leave the EU,
  • a senior Tory has suggested that we might go to war with Spain,
  • our Trade Secretary is in the Philippines meeting the self-confessed killer President Duterte and speaking of the two nations’ shared values’,
  • the Chancellor is offering India access to our potentially low tax, low regulation banking sector
  • and Theresa May is off selling yet more weapons to middle east dictators (she must be on commission with BAE Systems!).

Beauchampé’s final comment: “Nice to see the pro-government wing of the Third Estate getting their priorities right”.  

First published in the BirminghamPress.com: http://thebirminghampress.com/2017/04/chocolate-weapons-and-war/ . Republished in https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/political-barbs/chocolate-weapons-and-war/

 

 

 

 

Molly Scott Cato MEP: Theresa May has triggered Article 50, formally notifying our European partners that we’re leaving the EU

She writes:

The decision to leave the EU is the most destructive political decision of my lifetime. It sets us on a dangerous path towards extreme Brexit and will leave our country isolated, impoverished, and more divided than ever I can remember.

Brexit is likely to prove catastrophic for our businesses, particularly SMEs and for the environment and lead to confusion and distress for many people.

For these reasons I cannot support triggering Article 50 and it is why I have set out, along with my fellow Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, five Green Guarantees that must be met to ensure social, economic and environmental justice post-Brexit.