As the world’s greatest tax expert and a leading dietician, I’ve been asked to take part in a BBC local radio broadcast this morning on tax and obesity.
One of the solutions to the obesity issue that has been suggested is a ‘fat tax’. That is a tax on sugary and fatty foods in particular. For ease of reference, I shall refer to them as ‘neoliberal foodstuffs’.
I have to say I am not in favour of such a move although I often say that tax should be used to reprice neoliberal goods. So a fat tax is exactly the sort of thing I have said I ought to be in favour of.
But now faced with an example of the sort of thing I advocate, I have decided things are a bit more complicated than I have made out previously and we probably need to fudge things in an overly complex and ineffective manner.
So let us introduce a tax that disguises the fact that a tax is being levied but that businesses will ultimately factor into the price of the product anyway. That way fatties will not realise that the government is trying to discourage them with a fat tax and they can carry on moaning about the cost of living crisis.
I got this idea from Ed Miliband’s successful ploy of increasing green taxes on energy and then moaning about the increasing price of energy.
So we should ban advertising of neoliberal foodstuffs aimed at children. I advocate this for neoliberal foodstuffs specifically here, but I believe that no advertising should be aimed at children whatsoever (independent television companies will not be able to subsidise children’s programmes – we can then use the BBC’s children’s channels for State Educational purposes without fear of children switching off).
Then adverts aimed at adults should carry an additional VAT charge. Of course, this won’t make any difference because the businesses can just reclaim the input VAT so unless we levy the VAT on the end product this will make no difference whatsoever. But this would alert consumers to the existence of the tax so it fails the Ed Miliband test.
So it will have to be a new advertising tax for foodstuffs. A tax on the cost of advertising based on the neoliberalness of the foodstuff is a simple thing to do. So let us not dwell on the practicalities of such a tax (even though that is pretty much the entire substance of such a discussion once you have decided that discouraging unhealthy living through the tax system is desirable).
Finally, businesses should not be allowed to offset the cost of advertising neoliberal foodstuffs against their income when it comes to calculating their tax liabilities. Again, this would become factored into the end price of the product, hitting the consumer ultimately, but would mean that I can blame the neoliberal foodstuff companies when pursued by fatties outside of Greggs.
Of course this will entirely solve this problem by doing four things.
First, it would increase the price of food.In fact, it would do it in exactly the same way as would a fat tax, but is so complex that it has plausible deniability for the responsibility of raising prices. In other words, it passes the Ed Miliband test.
Second, awareness of the issue would be increased by the simple existence of this complex new tax which is not directly levied on the consumer. Of course, awareness will only exist amongst people who have to implement the tax.
Third, even though taxpayers already pay for the country’s healthcare, more funds would be raised for healthcare education programmes. Well, more funds will be raised if the desired behavioural effects of the advertising tax don’t work, but as only people who work in the production and promotion of neoliberal foodstuffs will know about it I am not anticipating there to be any behavioural effect whatsoever.
(Remember, I have disproved the Laffer effect so people will not change their behaviour as a result of increased taxes anyway.)
And fourthly, it gives me the opportunity to go on the radio again.
There is no perfect solution to this problem, but if there is one, it would be this.