I have now been asked by hundreds of people, if not thousands, “how can I help create Justice for Taxes?”
Obviously in these tough times not everyone can afford to buy both of my books, but there are things that you can do besides supporting the Justice for Taxes Network.
I can give you an example of how I strive to create Justice for Taxes everyday, whether it be drafting legislation for HM Treasury, giving speeches to unions, shouting at passer-bys in the street, being judgemental about businesses whose tax affairs are in the public domain or shopping at my local Supermarket.
Yes, that’s right, I do my own shopping. And I don’t ever turn a blind eye to Justice for Taxes.
Yesterday I was in Sainsbury’s buying some food for my goldfish when I overhead a woman saying to her husband loudly: “no, the other one, it’s cheaper!”
I looked down the aisle and, to my horror, I saw some poor hen-pecked man being ordered to put back a big bag of dog food and replace it with a very similar bag.
Well, as you can imagine, I realised instantly what was going on, but it wasn’t just a case of sexist oppression. Whilst that is immoral, it is legal. There is little I could do by speaking out on that. No, this was a case of tax avoidance, pure and simple.
For my readers who are still too young to know (I know a few readers from Mumsnet get their toddlers started early on the Justice for Taxes agenda), dog food for working dogs is zero rated, whereas normal dog food is standard rated.
I ran down the aisle, dropping my basket and shouting “Citizen’s arrest! VAT avoidance on aisle 23!”
The couple obviously hadn’t realised that I could see them and were visibly shocked. I said (rather than asked – I knew the answer), “you don’t live on a farm, do you. And I sincerely doubt your dog is a working dog. You, sir, appear to be a driving instructor, whilst your wife, if I am not mistaken, is an air stewardess”
I had no time to explain my elementary deductions to them, but I am never wrong on these things: I have never once been corrected.
“As such” I continued “I can conceive of no reasonable purpose that you require a working dog for your trade and certainly none for your employment”
Dumbfounded at my remarkable powers of deduction, the couple looked at one another. They each waited for the other to concoct a believable lie to worm their way out of the immoral act I had caught them perpetrating.
I broke the silence. “The fact is, you do not own a working dog. How dare you avoid tax!” I said.
The woman finally spoke, pointing at the prices on the shelves. “It’s cheaper“.
“Nonsense!” I replied immediately. “These bags of dog food are exactly the same price.”
“That one is £12 pounds” she said “but this one is £10 pounds.”
“Liar!” I bellowed. “They are both ten pounds! But this one is zero-rated. That one is standard-rated. VAT is a tax on consumers! It is your responsibility to purchase the correct dog food. You are just picking a product on account of the tax treatment. That is avoidance on your behalf.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you do not know that? Are you trying to tell me you are ignorant of what VAT you should pay?” I said and then, uncharacteristically repeating myself, finished emphatically “VAT is a tax on consumers!”
But then I decided to hammer home the point. “Is your dog a working sheepdog? Is your dog a gun dog? Do you have a racing greyhound? No! So why are you buying dog food for working dogs? That is sophistry!”
“It’s cheaper” she uttered again, quietly this time, and perhaps starting to question her immoral actions.
She still pretended to not understand, or be aware of the difference, but her amateur dramatics were wasted on me. A small crowd had gathered by this point and a member of staff approached me to congratulate me.
“Ah, Mr Richards…. Thank you, we’ll deal with this now.” She said.
As a reward she accompanied me to the checkout and then made sure I got to my car safely. I think she remembered me from a similar incident the week before and was very thankful. She kindly offered to accompany me round the store next time I came.
You see, not only is it right to campaign for Justice for Taxes, you sometimes get a few unsolicited benefits out of it.
Some of you may have noticed that I occasionally feel obliged to mention my books, State of Courage and The Joy of Being A Tax Expert, in order to justify to my wife the inordinate amount of time I spend educating the public.
Jill pretends not to mind me spending the majority of my time away from home, but I can tell she’s just being brave. Bless her. She spent last week at a luxury spa so I didn’t feel bad about going to the Public Accounts Committee, even though it was just one day.
But, to answer the question of the title, how can you, an ignorant non-tax expert, contribute to Justice for Taxes: You can be vigilant and suspicious of everybody at all times. Be prepared to suspect anybody and, above all else, ensure you comply with your personal VAT accounting. After all, it’s not just notionally a tax on you, it’s your liability and administrative burden to ensure it is paid.
By popular demand, I’ll be publishing a VAT administration course for idiots tomorrow.