……was George Harrison’s comment on Income Tax in the second half of the 1960s.
For those who don’t know the song I should explain that it is not describing some earthly paradise where the tax rate was one-twentieth (does the term “half tithe” exist?) or 5%.
Oh, dear me, no! The words heading this piece are sung from the viewpoint of the “Taxman” – the title of the opening track of The Beatles “Revolver” album. The world the lyrics are describing was one in which the most wealthy in the land (which was obviously by then a label extending to include the rising stars of pop culture) had the top slice of their income charged to tax at a mind-boggling 95%.
Before you boggle too much at that, however, let me remind you that when I left school in 1969 and joined the ranks of the much-loved Inland Revenue service the Basic Rate (then called Standard Rate) of Income Tax which was paid by everybody not just the rich, stood at 41.25% – more than twice the current rate!
And for all the grotesquely overpaid Bankers and Corporate Executives who whine and grizzle at the dreadful imposition of tax at 40 or (for the most bloated plutocrats of all) 45% I can advise that they simply don’t know they’re born!
In the 1967/68 Tax Year a “Special Charge” of 45% was levied on Investment Income over £5000. This meant that a high earner (relatively speaking – the actual figures look ludicrously small by todays standards) with investment income over that £5K figure would have to pay on the top slice of his investment income – wait for it! – Standard Rate Income Tax of 41.25% PLUS Surtax (i.e. Higher Rate Tax) of 50% PLUS the Special Charge of 45%. Yes, that was indeed a tax bill of 136.25%.
Makes Mr Harrison’s mere 95% a couple of years earlier seem quite reasonable, doesn’t it?
And why, you may be asking, am I choosing to educate you in these little matters of modern social history, especially when there is an impending General Election I could be being rude about?
Well, firstly I heard The Beatles’ “Taxman” twice on the same day on my supposedly “random play” mp3 player – which I took to be a sign that I should write SOMETHING on this topic.
And then, despite all my efforts to avoid them, I accidentally heard an electioneering politician TELLING me how his lot intend to spend my taxes if elected.
THAT reminded me of an interesting fact that I picked up somewhere between Derek “the Red” Warsop’s school history lessons and Inland Revenue Training Courses which is that once upon a very happy time the Westminster Wasters were required to ASK permission to impose taxes on the electorate. If I remember correctly, if the public disapproved it was sometimes necessary to hold a General Election on that single issue!
Doesn’t that sound like a great idea?
I have felt for many years that Governments (of whatever political stripe) need reminding sometimes that they do not, in fact, have an inherent natural “right” to help themselves to OUR money without our permission – if for no other reason than to do so is really bad manners!
So where did we go wrong in letting them take the power to tax us without being invited to do so?
I think that as far as the vast majority of us are concerned it must have been the imposition of Pay As You Earn during the latter days of the Second World War.
Wartime was obviously a good time for sneaking in little permanent erosions of our original freedoms (“Don’t you know there’s a war on” enabled many people to get away with things that would not have been tolerated in peacetime) because at a stroke every single employee in the UK was immediately denied the ultimate gesture of refusing to pay up if they didn’t like what it was being spent on.
When Income Tax disappeared out of your pay before you received it all choice in that area disappeared with it. And that “Non-payment on principle” sanction disappeared with it and has been absent ever since!
I am aware that with essentials such as Defence, Education and Health to pay for it is unrealistic to go back to a system where we have full control over what they spend our money on before they spend it but some say-so on all other expenditure would be nice.
And I hope that you will try out some of what I’ve told you here on the irritating door-knocking candidates for election – I very much doubt that any of their political parties will have briefed them on this topic. So it might be fun to wind them up a bit!
I would also like to make present of that last idea to the excellent Taxpayers’ Alliance (http://www.taxpayersalliance.com) to whose emails I subscribe and who are dedicated to reducing our tax burden by chopping out or shining a light on those bits of National and Local Government waste that those organisation either don’t know or don’t care that they are wasting money on.
Good luck to them and “Power to the People”!