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The LVTC blog, by Henry Law

The comments in the LVTC Blog are a personal view of our Hon. Secretary Henry Law and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Campaign.

This is a place for personal observations and comments on politics, economics, current affairs, on-going discussions on the potential for LVT to remedy some of the current ills, and the impact on Society of any of the above. 

Please read and enjoy, and feel free to respond to Henry if you have any thing you would like to add.


Inconsistencies

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As part of the Brexit debate, we are being told by the "remainers" that we need to protect home producers, which is what the EU's Single Market has done for the past 40 years. In other words, imports are a bad thing and dumped goods are the worst of all. American President Donald Trump is saying much the same thing - that US industry should be supported, by keeping out imported competitive goods. On the whole, it is the "remainers" who are most critical of Trump for his alleged populism. There is an inconsistency somewhere.

It doesn't stop there, either. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia; ie it is refusing to allow certain goods to be sold to the country, which has had a damaging effect on agriculture in some EU countries. The US is following suit. North Korea is also the subject of this kind of sanction. Which is a further inconsistency. If imports are a bad thing and should be restricted by tariffs, then sanctions must be good for Russia, North Korea and anyone else on the receiving end of them. In which case why are they being imposed? If dumping is a bad thing and we want to damage the economies of those countries, surely they should be the recipients of dumped goods and we should be sending shiploads of stuff in their direction, produced at below cost? That would also satisfy Trump's desire to rejuvenate the US steel industry.

 

The obscene Institution of “ability to pay”

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I received this from a correspondent yesterday. It is food for thought.

"From my contract work, more evidence of the tax collectors' wicked approach: He won't come after your because your tax planning is fraudulent per se. You'll attract their attention based largely on how much more they estimate they can squeeze out of you relative to the associated collection costs of the squeezing. That is, so called tax avoidance is not seen by the tax collector as a moral crusade. It's pure revenue generation. So taken up to the very large scale of the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook etc. there will be a 'negotiation' on their so called 'tax avoidance', related to how much more they are able to pay before they'll simply ramp down their business activity and wealth production. The amount one is able to pay and the effort the HMRC are prepared to devote to the investigation will both meet at this 'break point'.

"Here is more evidence of the obscene institution of taxation based on ability to pay - the break point is determined by the point where business will stop operating and the hard working self employed go back onto benefits, and all iterations in between. On this observation alone, how much more will be dead weight losses from total revenue collected, to add to all the other monstrous losses totting up?

Taxation is the root cause of bankruptcy and unemployment.*

Sure, there are other causes. Tax is the biggest.

* Editor's comment: HMRC is the largest single initiator of bankruptcy proceedings.

 

An essential book for a confused time

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PROTECTION OR FREE TRADE? was written by Henry George in 1886. It is still in print and readily available. It rebuts most of the arguments being put forward by both camps in the Brexit debate, as well as the protectionist sentiments that seem to be at large in the USA following the election of Donald Trump. It has become essential reading, for it provides a guide to the morass of debate that has developed in the wake of the referendum result and the Trump presidential victory

The EU is founded on protectionist trade principles, as becomes clear when people express concern about losing access to the Single Market, which is not a free trade area but a customs union, sustained by an external tariff wall and the internal tariff that is Value Added Tax. Brexit supporters are divided between those who want to see a tariff wall around the UK, under the pretext of protecting British jobs, and a minority, who are in favour of genuine free trade.

Trump was elected partly on the populist belief that protectionism would somehow bring about a revival of industry in the US which has become obsolete as production has moved to other parts of the world. It seems as if he is intent on putting policies into effect with the intention of reversing this long-term trend. They can be guaranteed not to work, except in isolated instances. The overall result will be to do nothing but damage to the US economy and make most people poorer. A trade war with China also brings with it wider risks.

George demonstrates, wittily, with irony, and using the technique of reduction to absurdity, the fallacy of the protectionist arguments. Anyone who reads the book will realise that the best way forward for a post-Brexit Britain would be to open the doors to tariff-free imports and scrap the internal tariff of VAT. The prospects of the latter do not look good, unless the Chancellor takes the bold step of putting the tax under scrutiny. Tariff-free imports, on the other hand, are a more realistic proposition, if only because of the trouble and expense involved in blocking the import of goods by holding them in customs compounds at every port around the country while they wait for clearance.

However, unless we get rid of VAT and resist the temptation to replace it with some kind of purchase tax, people entering the UK will once again face the return of the "anything to declare" business, the abolition of which was one of the better aspects of being in the EU.

 

Fee trade area

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The Single Market is described as a free trade area. In reality, is very expensive. It means that if you want to trade with me, even if we are next-door neighbours, we can only do so legally over a 20% high tariff wall between us - Value Added Tax. In some EU countries, the internal tariff wall is even higher - 25% in Sweden. That is not much of a free trade area. Fee trade area, more like.

Green and Brown are neighbours. Green does gardening work for Brown at an agreed price of £200. Brown services Green's car for an agreed price of £200. There are three possibilities.

  1. They exchange their services and no money changes hands.
  2. They pay cash to each other.
  3. They bill each other and add 20% VAT.

If VAT is not a tariff barrier against legal trade, then what do you call it? What do you think they will do in practice? You could of course say the same about income tax. Why would Green pay Brown taxable wages when he could just pay cash under the table?

VAT and Income Tax are a pair of poisonous fruits.

 

The dead loss of VAT

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Brexit is a golden opportunity to get rid of all the trade tariffs we have been saddled with by the EU - that is, to reduce taxes on sales of goods and services, by dropping not only existing ‘free trade agreements’, with their enforced tariffs, but while we are at it, VAT as well.

VAT is a trade tariff - just the UK’s intra-national version. The irrationality of government, elected by the people, is here without bounds when it comes to such a destructive tax. Persisting with VAT merely retains our own home-grown version of the poison of trade tariffs.

Read more...
 

The symbiosis of Marxism and Neoliberalism

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The current problems with social democratic parties world-wide stems ultimately from an ideological failure. Insofar as contemporary socialism has any ideology at all, it is Marxist. There is a fundamental flaw with Marx which is these days not widely known and understood. He conflates land and capital. They are separate entities.

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The Grosvenor Estate

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The death of the Duke of Westminster has drawn attention to the fact that the estate is not liable for inheritance tax as it is vested in a trust. This has led to indignant comments and charges of tax avoidance.

The Grosvenor Estate is one of several owned by aristocratic families, which together encompass a large area of Central London. The pattern of land ownership in Central London has hardly changed since 1700.

Their managers of these estates have done a good job in preserving the attractive character of at least part of the capital, protecting it from rapacious developers and local authorities who between them have ruined the London skyline.

However, it is important to remember that this land would be almost worthless if it were not for the infrastructure paid for and maintained day and night at the expense of the taxpayer, without which London could not function. In principle, it does not matter who owns land as long as those owners pay their contribution towards the cost of the services which sustain their rental income stream - ie a land value tax close to the full market rental value. From this perspective, breaking up these estates would in itself solve nothing. The land value tax is in principle just a service charge.

In practice, land ownership brings political influence. Wise owners would use that influence to secure legislation which was for the greater good. If they do not, sooner or later there will be a price to be paid.

 
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