Month: April 2016

Why It’s Time To Abolish The Inheritance Tax

The saying goes that there are just two things in life that are certain; death and taxes. The Inheritance Tax inconveniently combines both of those pretty undesirable inevitabilities in to one fundamentally unfair package – and it’s time we got rid of it.

There is nothing nice about loss. The grief and mourning families go through when faced with the deaths of loved ones can be extremely traumatic. With that in mind, it seems simply wrong to take from families at times like these.

Of course, these sentimental reasons alone cannot form the basis for sound policy on taxation but they are valid nonetheless. Enthusiasts of the Inheritance Tax argue that taxing inheritance diminishes income inequality, a pertinent argument at a time where the gap between the have and the have-nots is getting wider and wider.

That being said, inheritance is money that has already been taxed, through income tax, property tax etc. This makes Inheritance Tax a double tax, an additional levy on money of which a fair portion has previously gone to the state.

This is profoundly unfair and one of the numerous reasons why the Inheritance Tax was voted the least popular in the United Kingdom. On top of this, the Inheritance Tax code is extraordinarily lengthy at almost 1,000 pages long and would take the world’s fastest speaker 10 hours to read out loud, a testament to reducing and reforming the ridiculously complex tax regime in this country as a whole.

Whilst income equality continues to be an economic ill that plagues British society, taxing people twice over is not the way to rectify it. The government’s cuts to Capital Gains Tax and inability to close down loopholes on giant corporations and the richest in society, who have hit the headlines for evading taxation in recent weeks, is a much more just way of remedying this issue. And, this approach would provide the bursary with far more than the Inheritance Tax could ever yield – which is a mere 0.25% of GDP by the way.

There is a case to be made that this tax is imposed to redress a society that is increasingly non-meritocratic – but this point is flawed. Surely it is conducive to a meritocratic society to allow a person to work hard, pay one lot of tax on their earnings, estate and other capital and then pass on whatever is left at the end of their life to the people closest to them?

It is an accepted instinct to provide for those closest to you. If the government comes swooping in to claim yet more money from a now deceased individual, who has worked hard for their entire life to leave for their family, how can we earnestly call this meritocratic? Where is the incentive to knuckle down and earn for your family if up to 40% of your savings are snatched from the hands of your grieving children?

Perhaps it isn’t fair that scrapping this tax could lead to a string of people benefitting from the work of distant ancestors, therein lies the real argument for the Inheritance Tax promoting meritocracy – however it isn’t convincing enough. Economic liberalism insists that an individual has control over their own earnings, even in death – after all, many benefits and privileges people have in life are determined purely by chance and luck.

If we are serious about giving people greater power over their own finances and futures whilst promoting meritocracy and reducing inequality then an Inheritance Tax, which is more punitive on the aspirational middle class than the slippery super-rich, is not the way to go.

Instead the government could place emphasis on a Luxury Goods Tax and by closing down tax loopholes and evasion – that is the fair way of getting the wealthiest to pay their share without squeezing the middle classes at an emotionally distressing time.

We must stop disincentivising people to earn enough to leave money to better their families’ lives once they have passed. After all, this money has already been taxed once; making it liable for taxation again is deeply unfair, unnecessary and not financially justifiable. The only things certain in life are death and taxes, who knew this old adage meant that death was taxable too?

 

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Top 10 Game of Thrones Characters

I resisted the urge to watch Game of Thrones  for years. This was a social urge by the way, not a personal one. I had assumed it would be along the lines of Lord of the Rings and not entirely tolerable but alas it’s appearance on Sky box sets meant I gave it a chance and some five weeks later, I’ve seen all fifty episodes, I’m obsessed and counting down the days until the new season.

I’m a fully-fledged bandwagoner.

So, to sate my current need to talk to everybody I knew about Thrones I thought I would rank my ten ‘favourite’, and I use the term loosely as some of these characters I don’t actually like, characters.

10. Oberyn Martell

Prince Oberyn only appeared in seven episodes but he certainly made an impression on me, if not only for his weirdly attractive unattractiveness. As a visitor from Dorne, the home of the socially liberal, free-thinking, open-minded people of Westeros, Oberyn hosted bisexual sex parties and tried in vain to avenge his sister and her children. His smutty charm and progressive attitudes created a charming charismatic persona that had us on his side very quickly. Unfortunately, his humility and ability to finish off a job were lacking, and well, you know the rest.

9. Ned Stark

Poor old Ned Stark, his appearance in just one season of the show made an impression. As we have heard persistently since that sadistic bastard Joffrey had his head removed, Ned Stark was a man of real honour, and one of the few in the Seven Kingdoms who didn’t really deserve to die. In ten episodes, Ned Stark did little to warrant anything but admiration, and his legacy, if you like, will be setting out the show’s brutal tone, where anyone can die…at any time.

8. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a little dry a lot of the time if we’re being totally honest, but his pretty Northern face just about excuses it. Like his father, he’s a genuinely good guy, on a continent where there are precious few. He’s pretty much served as the only hero against the White Walkers. With that in mind, his ‘death’ certainly wasn’t warranted and making him the victim of hostile tribalism against wildlings, whilst the White Walkers are advancing, probably wasn’t the Knight’s Watch’s best idea. Having said that, I don’t for one second think he’s gone anywhere – but like the bastard himself, I know nothing.

7. Brienne of Tarth

The feminist icon of the series is not-a-knight Brienne of Tarth. Having faithfully served Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, even after both’s deaths, she has shown her unwavering loyalty to her oaths. Plus, she’s an absolute behemoth, possibly the most fearsome warrior in the entire series, looking like Draco Malfoy’s mother with Hagrid’s power. She has uprooted gender stereotypes, which, let’s face it are probably harder to usurp in a world such as the Seven Kingdoms, and she deserves a lot of respect for it. However, I fear that her storyline is coming to an end, and if I had my wish, it would do next season, as one of her former ‘masters’ returns from the beyond…

6. Sansa Stark

For the first three seasons, I was begging and pleading for this girl to have more respect for herself. I actually viewed her as a pathetic shrinking violet but when I think back, for a young girl to lose pretty much her entire family, deal romantically with two violent psychopaths and to be at the top of King’s Landing’s most wanted list, you’ve got to be pretty damn strong. Like Brienne of Tarth said of Sansa’s mother, Catelyn, she’s got courage, and plenty of it. The best of Sansa is yet to come, for sure.

5. Cersei Lannister

I loathe this hateful cow. In fact, nothing gave me more satisfaction throughout the series than seeing Cersei covered in blood, shit and spit, walking through King’s Landing being heckled like she deserved.  That being said, any character that can stir up this sort of venom from a viewer has got to be celebrated as a bloody good one. In fact, she’s the best villain in the show. Let’s not forget that the butchering of the Starks, the imprisonment of the Tyrells and the unjust attempts at convicting Tyrion for crimes he didn’t commit, were all, in some way, orchestrated by her. What a poisonous bitch. Bravo, Lena Heady.

4. Tyrion Lannister

Yeah, everyone’s favourite character is only number four on my list. And it’s not because I have anything against Tyrion, I just think there are better characters. He’s the only Lannister who you’re always on the side of, which is a testament to him, given the bloodline of arseholes he comes from. That being said, Tyrion often seems to be there for comic relief more than any sort of epic quest, a role he plays exceptionally well but one that’s kept him off the top spot.

3. Olenna Tyrell

The legendary Dame Diana Rigg takes bronze in my countdown. As the matriarch of a dynasty that only really came to the forefront in season four, the Queen of Thorns has captured my heart in a short space of time. It’s my belief that she has everyone’s number in King’s Landing and they don’t even realise it. Her barbed tongue, sharp wit and wily plots are no match for the Lannisters/Baratheons. Plus, she killed Joffrey, she deserves the Iron Throne herself for that alone.

2. Daenerys Targaryen

Is there a person alive who doesn’t love Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, mother of Dragons? I can think of no character more deserving of being called fire, like, she literally is fire. Whether she’s liberating oppressed slaves or resurrecting the coolest mythical creatures known to human folklore, our Khaleesi has often possessed the most enthralling plot lines in the series. If we were honest, we are all desperate for the day, Daenerys and her dragons fly to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne she truly deserves. All hail Khaleesi!

1. Catelyn Stark

An unconventional choice, I know, but not a surprising one if you’ve spoken to me at any point over the last few weeks. There has quite simply been no person in Westeros dealt a worse hand than Lady Catelyn Stark. Her husband is beheaded, her son crippled, her daughters held captive or missing and then her family and allies brutally murdered at her own brother’s wedding. Sure, sympathy isn’t enough to place her at the top of the list but her poise in dealing with all this hardship is admirable. She never wavers. She even faces her brutal untimely death with the most poetic air of peace possible. Catelyn is the strongest woman in the show, right until the end she is defiant in her instinct to protect her family. Perhaps, she is so loveable and so respectable because she is the only character who acts selflessly, and whose motives aren’t fuelled by a desire to better her own social standing. Here’s to Lady Stoneheart in Season 6. Please.