King John’s tax collectors took every last groat from low-paid labourers, leaving them without food or shelter. A few hundred years later, people are once again starving as bailiffs settle Council Tax collections. There are reasons why tax doesn’t have a good press. Those idling in gilded swimming pools and driving Bentley Behemoths are happy with things that way.

We are a worldwide centre for companies that like to hide money from anyone wanting to tax it. The City of London is home to these companies, but also has close ties with tax havens, where massive profits flow untouched. Usury and greed are our national products and in order to protect them, the Chancellor collects less tax. In a country with public services falling about our ears, we have the lowest corporation tax of any major nation. The Chancellor is like a man in a burning building assuring his flatmates that the fire brigade really need the water and that no-one should call 999.

If you are reading this in the Beehive on West Street or the Graduate on Surrey Street, you are in a building owned in the Cayman Islands. If you work in the Hallamshire Business Park off Ecclesall Road, the ground under your feet is owned in Luxembourg. If you shop in M&S, Boots, Starbucks or Topshop, your pennies will be spirited away into tax havens across the world. If you live on Botanical Road or Tadcaster Road, the Y2K company based in Gibraltar may have bought the land your house is built on. Flats dotted across the city were bought through companies in Guernsey, British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man. The landlords of these properties probably live just down the road, but the money gets shunted overseas. Most of this tax avoidance could be shut down tomorrow, but the City likes things how they are. The Chancellor does their bidding. Profit and rent flows out of the country.

Our Government will soon be putting less money into public services than any major developed nation. 18p in every pound of tax collected goes to the NHS, 15p in every pound to pensions, 15p to care and social support. 6p goes to people who are sick or disabled, 1p to people looking for a job. 7p pays off the interest on our debts. 12p goes on education, 6p on defence, and other pennies on housing, sport, farming, police and transport. Without tax, we lose all this. Our modern kings, watching through the tinted windows of a Bentley Behemoth, are happy to see public services shrink and people struggle. If we are to change this, then we need to love tax.

Tax is a way of getting together money from rich and poor, corporations and little businesses. Putting it together and doing something good. It’s like crowdfunding, but not for a phone charger shaped like a kitten or a wifi-enabled massage chair. With taxes we can crowdfund a better economy or a voyage to the moon. Granted, the Government uses taxes with all the humility of a bully that just made off with our dinner money. Billions are thrown at vanity projects like HS2. But that is an argument for a better democracy, not giving up.

You can do things to help. Shop at megastores and you’ll just be funding an executive’s Ferrari. Shop with small businesses or local independents and your money is more likely to be passed around the local economy and end up as taxes, paying for a care worker or a better bus service. Question how tax is spent, but be proud of what you contribute. Tax is how we get our money together to do something better. We can help people struggling on low pay, invest in new ideas and local business, share our groats and make a country we would like to live in. It’s crowdfunding for a better future.

sheffieldequality.wordpress.com/next-steps/love-tax
private-eye.co.uk/registry
ukpublicspending.co.uk

Jason Leman