By BILL BLEVINS
Financial Correspondent, Blevins Franks
Already dubbed a “one man tax creation industry”, UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has announced the possibility of two more controversial tax revenue raisers. No wonder many Britons are leaving the country.
Brown’s latest tax proposal could see British council tax rocketing by 300 per cent for people who live in desirable areas with low crime rates, good schools and well maintained streets. Even though they may well have stretched themselves to pay for their comfortable house and pleasant location, the government wants to squeeze their purses more.
For some, this could mean a huge leap from around 1,000 pounds sterling to over 4,000 pounds sterling a year in council tax. Homes will be precisely valued by a high-tech computer system, which will divide the 21 million homes in Britain into 10,000 different localities, using postcodes to determine how affluent people are.
Information about a home’s size, features, location, local schools, crime statistics and home improvements, along with householders travel arrangements, income, the number of vehicles they own and health insurance contributions will also be used to assess people’s worth.
The computer model will be able to classify each household on the basis of 287 “lifestyle variables”.
This latest move to claw in more money for the cash strapped Treasury from council tax bills, which have already risen significantly over the last few years, follows on from a scheme being tested in Northern Ireland, where an annual bill, based on taxing 0.78 per cent of a property’s value, is being tested.
Local inspectors will call on householders to help assess homes, people who refuse to co-operate could face fines of up to 1,000 pounds sterling.
According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, the shadow communities and local government secretary, Caroline Spelman, denounced the plans as an “invasive system” that was the “hallmark of an oppressive and greedy government”.
She added: “There is growing alarm about Labour’s use of Big Brother computers to hike taxes.
“First, they want to log and record every feature of your home, from double glazing to the number of bedrooms. Next, they want clipboard-wielding bureaucrats to have the right to inspect your home.
“Now, Labour intends to tax you, not just for every home improvement, but also the neighbourhood you live in. This is the hallmark of an oppressive and greedy government, finding ever more stealthy ways to tax working families, pensioners and trampling over privacy when it suits them.”
The Conservative party has also condemned new powers for council tax inspectors in Northern Ireland:
“Unlike council tax, householders will face a ‘house price tax’ – a levy based on the set percentage of the value of their home each year. This tax will hit Northern Ireland, while Gordon Brown’s review of town hall finances is actively looking at the same system for England.”
It continued: “Under a Big Brother database tax scheme covering home improvements, site positive features like gardens, patios, conservatories, double glazing, scenic views, the number of bedrooms and parking spaces, will all qualify for higher tax bills. The information will be fed into a computer assisted mass appraisal database – the same Big Brother technology that has been bought for both England and Northern Ireland.”
Labour has hit back, accusing the Conservatives of “scaremongering”, and denying that the planned changes in Northern Ireland necessarily represent a pilot scheme for the rest of the UK.
The council tax hike proposals were announced alongside a possible green tax, which could hit hard pressed homeowners with another bill for 1,000 pounds sterling. Cars, holidays and consumer goods will be targeted in a bid to tackle climate change.
Tax on fuel, air passenger duty and road tax for gas guzzling vehicles face increases. The news was leaked in a letter from Environment Secretary, David Miliband, to the Chancellor, which disclosed that Miliband proposed punishing green taxes to cut down greenhouse emissions. It is reported that his plans include taking back the savings motorists will make when oil prices fall.
Miliband’s suggestions include an extra five pounds sterling on air passenger duty to raise 400 million pounds sterling a year and putting VAT on EU air flights.
Shadow Tory Leader, David Cameron has said that he was ready to back higher taxes on cheap flights if necessary. He told the BBC: “I don’t actually want to stop people going on a family holiday to restrict air travel, but we have to look at transport as one of the areas to help cut down on greenhouse emissions and, if that means putting a tax on air travel, then yes, that’s something we’d be prepared to do.”
The Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, said that an incoming Conservative government would re-balance the tax system with green taxes on pollution to pay for reductions in tax on families.
The UK government has relentlessly tried to introduce a wealth of stealth taxes. It seems that every week there is something new it is attempting to tax. There is the tax proposed for employee’s private use of their business laptops, hotel bed tax and the more recent refuse tax. Not surprisingly, Brits are leaving the country in droves.
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