George Orwell is widely credited with the invention of “doublethink”, the technique that we use to interpret tax legislation, but in actual fact it dates back to the introduction of the concept of income tax itself.
If anything, George Orwell, popularised the concept that was already prevalent.
For example, when income tax was re-introduced in 1842 it was widely thought to be a temporary measure, because Robert Peel said it was. However, the tax experts of their day knew that Peel actually meant that this was to be a permanent measure.
Now, it seems preposterous that a system of taxation can be seen to operate on a system which embraces the concept that the polar opposite things are meant by a single preposition.
But, you’ll notice that “preposterous” and “preposition” share their etymology. To explain briefly to the less educated amongst my readership, that means that they sound alike and mean similar things.
Non tax experts often ask me how I know when to employ doublethink in reading tax legislation. This is the wrong attitude. A good tax expert reads legislation using nothing else but doublethink.
This can be quite demanding, but it’s why expertise in all of taxation is so unique to me. Most qualified tax advisers restrict themselves to striving to understand three or four chapters of one part of one act.
Why we use doublethink is important. It allows The State to reinterpret the legislation as it wishes to maximise its tax revenues. Not only is this its right, it is its obligation.
Not only can The State truthfully say that the tax being levied is the correct amount, it can say, crucially, that that is what the law has always said.
This is vital to understand when calculating things like tax gaps. And this is why HMRC are failing in their obligations by understating it.
Most worrying is that they know that they are understating it and yet do not not-know that they are understating it. You might find this confusing, but this is a concept known as “metadoublethink”, which means applying doublethink to the logical process of doublethink itself.
And thus, you will see that no matter how you constitute and reconstitute the logic, if I start with the position that you are always wrong, it invariably follows that I am always right, even where I mean that you are always right and I am always wrong, and that you may always be right and I may always be right, or both of us wrong and yet neither of us are, or the exact opposite of that, and various variations or permutations of you being right and me being wrong, but I always am right because that is ultimately the position that we find ourselves in because I am the doublethinker and you are the doublethinkee, though in fact you may be the doublethinker and I the doublethinkee, or both and/or none, but the end is always the same.
That is metadoublethink in action.