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The Tories' defence of non-doms has backfired? It's almost as if people don't like tax avoiders

By Mark Steel

Published 09/04/2015

Presumably George Osborne will announce that from now on no Jihadists will be deported, as many of them are working and providing tax revenue
Presumably George Osborne will announce that from now on no Jihadists will be deported, as many of them are working and providing tax revenue

It’s a fascinating tactic by the Tories, to shout, “If Labour stops billionaires being allowed to pay less tax by claiming  their true homeland is elsewhere, the billionaires will leave the country.

 Then they’ll go and rob a different country, depriving Britain of being robbed, which will ruin this country. Not only that, but those billionaires love this country, which is why they claim it’s not their home, and you’ll force them to live in the country they say was their homeland anyway, you heartless bastards.”

It suggests a change in the Conservative attitude towards crime and immigration. In his next press conference George Osborne will tell us, “Thousands of immigrants are swindling this country by claiming from our welfare system. We can’t let this continue, as it’s not nearly enough. Once they’ve come all this way they might as well swipe something worth having, so we’ll send them on a course to learn how to do it properly.”

Labour should now promise to tax burglars on any money raised by selling burgled goods. The Tories wouldn’t be able to stop themselves and would yell, “This will drive Britain’s finest burglars out of business”, and produce a letter signed by 104 prominent housebreakers ending, “If Labour wins the election we’ll pack our crowbars and move to Belgium.”

The non-domicile rule allows you to claim that your homeland is a different country, for example if you worked there once. Then by coincidence it usually turns out this other country has a lower tax rate than Britain. So a chief executive says, “I had this amazing stroke of luck. I fancied becoming a resident of the Cayman Islands as I like coconuts and then I was told they pay twopence in the million on tax, so it’s worked out quite well.”

This also explains why so many rich people signed up to Richard Branson’s space trips, because after one journey they could claim they lived on a comet with no tax system at all.

The law was originally introduced by William Pitt 200 years ago to encourage businessmen to travel the world colonising territories, and pay little tax on their profits. So it would be a disaster if Labour scrapped it, as it would remove any incentive for the chairman of HSBC to nip off for a few years fighting Zulus.

One complaint of the Conservatives has been that removing this privilege will not raise any extra money. This seems unlikely, but in any case it’s another daring move to suggest that every decision is judged by whether it raises any extra money.

Presumably Osborne will announce that from now on no Jihadists will be deported, as many of them are working and providing tax revenue that would be lost if they were sent back to Yemen.

An article in The Spectator complained that changing the law would provide “an administrative burden” for those who claim the non-domicile status. So we have the prospect of Roman Abramovich sat up for hours crying, “Forms forms forms, they never stop, and now I miss the match against Hull.” But Labour don’t even care.

The Daily Telegraph insisted Labour’s proposal was part of an overall plan that “high earners will be hammered.” And you have to wonder how much more hammering the high earners can take. If it gets any worse they’ll be forced to visit Banquet Banks, set up by charities and churches, where they get a coupon and queue for a brace of pheasant and enough truffles to see them through the weekend. We can only hope Bono has time to write a song to help them out.

It’s to be expected that the Conservatives and their newspapers would respond by raging that Labour will drive away business, and kill ambition and take everything in tax. But this time it doesn’t seem to be working.

They scream even louder about Nicola Sturgeon, with one newspaper calling her “the most dangerous woman in Britain”. Because she’s even more firmly opposed to the Coalition’s austerity policies, that makes her more dangerous than Rose West or these women who go to Syria to join Isis. She wants to keep libraries open, the deranged psychopath.

But after they barked this, Sturgeon’s popularity went up. And when the Conservatives complain that policies such as the Mansion Tax, raising the minimum wage, and the proposal to stop the non-domicile tax status are “anti-business”, it draws attention to Labour’s most popular ideas.

The Conservatives are just doing what they’ve always done, but it’s having the opposite effect to normal, which must be very disconcerting. Maybe they’ll respond by trying even older tactics, and claim that Andy Burnham’s health plans will allow the Prussians to dominate Europe, and that Ed Miliband’s statement on education will infuriate the God of soil and ruin the barley crop.

Or the Conservatives could really trump Labour, and announce that instead of abolishing the non-domicile tax status, they’re going to extend it to everyone. Anyone will be able to choose their domicile, so if you write “Narnia” on the form, that’s where you pay your tax to.

You can pay it to the bottom of the sea, where it’s one pence in the pound as the state is extremely small down there, or to a cloud, or to a swirling pink mist you once saw after a bowl of magic mushrooms. And if anyone objects, warn them to keep quiet or you’ll move to another country, then they’ll be sorry.

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