Belfast Telegraph

Here's hoping world's first trillionaire will pay his dues

By Ellen E Jones

The world's first trillionaire is coming, so look busy. According to last week's excitable predictions he (and it will be a he, won't it?) is already alive, probably works in technology and could buy everybody on the planet 80 burgers each.

Yet all this fun with maths is not enough to distract us from a more troubling reflection: will a world with one very, very, very rich man and millions of very, very, very poor people be the kind we'd want to live in?

It is to be hoped that our trillionaire will be a philanthropic sort and some have speculated that Bill Gates, who has committed to donating at least half of his wealth to charity, is a likely candidate. But, even if the trillionaire isn't that way inclined, his personal wealth could still offer a communal boon through taxation. And if the accountants at Trillionaire Inc don't like it, there's not much they will be able to do – if he is British. Soon HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will have the power to recover unpaid tax directly from people's bank accounts.

This idea unnerves many people – even those not in Take That, such as members of the Treasury select committee. They are legitimate concerns, but they don't seem to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which already has the right to take money from people's bank accounts.

There is still a big public appetite to see corporate tax avoiders pursued, as a letter to Caffe Nero that went viral on social media has demonstrated. Any move which gives HMRC more power to do so is worthy of consideration.

Alas, HMRC has an issue which should worry us much more than the occasional calculation errors; its tendency to aggressively pursue soft targets while leaving the real villains free for business as usual. The tax evader with a £1,000 debt is more flagrant, perhaps but it's the corporation quietly and legally avoiding millions in tax that does more damage.

It should never be down to the charitable whim of the prophesied trillionaire to decide whether the rest of us have access to food, healthcare, education and shelter.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the direction in which we're headed, if we can't empower our tax system to do the job it's supposed to.

The alternative? A future in which we're all reduced to hoping Mr Gates comes good on those burgers.

Kim Kardashian's nuptials on May 24 mean she's harder to avoid than usual. But here's one news item more interesting than the length of her bridal train.

Last week the reality star posted a blog essay in which she described how being the mother of a mixed-race child (North, her baby with rapper Kanye West) has changed her outlook: "To be honest, before I had North I never really gave racism or discrimination a lot of thought. It is obviously a topic that Kanye is passionate about, but I guess it was easier for me to believe that it was someone else's battle."

Actually, she has a point. Abhorring racism is, for most people, a no-brainer, but abhorring racism in the abstract is different from either experiencing racism or witnessing its effect on someone you love.

Since starting a relationship with Kanye West, Kardashian has been called a "n*****-lover" in the street.

Her expression of solidarity should be welcomed.

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