Times Opinion today | Bob Diamond should go, Obamacare, Bomber Command, beard tax

Barclays and Bob

Diamond should go, says The Times

Banks must be split apart, says Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor


“I will never see Arnold Schwarzenegger and not think of a brown condom stuffed with walnuts,” says Philip Collins of the “underrated” Clive James

The authorities have taxed “wealth, numbers of female servants, hearths, watches, dogs and salt…beards, beehives, basements, hats, birth, marriage and death…nothing tears a society apart faster than the perception of a tax burden unshared,” says Ben Macintyre.

The memorial to the men of Bomber Command is long overdue, The Times says

The trench warfare that is Obamacare will rumble on, The Times says

Syrian blogger Fares Chamseddine thinks Syrian rebels will welcome Turkey’s sabre-rattling

Ed Miliband’s poll bounce and confidence boost makes it game on for the 2015 election, says Anushka Asthana

(Times Opinion, Friday June 29, 2012)

When you use the term ‘daylight robbery’ you are invoking a 17th-century British tax and a tax avoidance scheme still visible in many parts of Britain. In 1697, Parliament introduced a tax on windows. Householders would henceforth pay a tax proportional to the number of windows they owned. Middle-class and wealthy homeowners simply boarded up some, and in a few cases all, of their windows to avoid paying what they owed.

These buildings belonged to the Jimmy Carrs of their day, as Ben Macintyre explains.

Times Opinion today | McGuinness and the Queen, austerity pain, non-doms & Donald Trump’s hair

The Troubles

Rosemary Bennett, who lived in Belfast in the 1970s, is horrified at the prospect of former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen today

But The Times believes that “without Mr McGuinness there would probably be no peace”

In it together

Austerity pain might equal vote-winning gain for the Conservatives because we tend not to regret tough decisions, says Daniel Finkelstein

Non-doms in Britain can bequeath their non-dom status to their children – “surely the most bizarre aspect of this tax avoidance scheme”, says Alice Thomson

The fuel duty U-turn “hardly inspires confidence in the Government’s ability to stand by the hard decisions needed to restore the public finances”, says The Times

If infrastructure investment equals economic salvation, why have things in southern Europe gone from bad to worse?” asks Stephen King


The mystery of Donald Trump’s hair, and other puzzles of science

Broadcaster Dan Snow on preserving the White Cliffs of Dover

(Times Opinion, Wednesday June 27, 2012)

Times Opinion today | Germany’s euro burden, Egypt’s President, Italy’s cocktail & Britain’s tax avoidance problem


Italy is “a dangerous cocktail of debt, politics, a comedian and Silvio Berlusconi,” says Bill Emmott – despite the stabilising hand of Mario Monti

Egypt has a new President – but he and the Muslim Brotherhood would do well to remember just how few people voted for him, says Amir Taheri

Germany, if it wants the euro to remain, must commit fully to shouldering the debts of eurozone nations, The Times says (as does Tony Blair)

Invest in Africa – the words that every Sunderland footballer will carry on their chests next year, thanks to Aidan Heavey, chief executive of Tullow Oil. He explains why


“If the wealthiest pay as little as 1 per cent tax, and corporations even less, that is an offence against the values and sense of fairness of ordinary people,” says Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee

Libby Purves takes Ed Miliband to task for his “cynical” about-turn on immigration

“It should not take an institution of this size the best part of a week to recover from a failed systems upgrade,” we say of NatWest

We also say that East London’s reputation has been lifted by the 50,000 who turned out for the Hackney Weekend festival

(Times Opinion, Monday 25 June, 2012)

A flat tax would not suit the UK economy | Oliver Kamm

Hugo has suggested that there is a case for a flat tax. I disagree.

Tax reform should ideally do three things: raise revenue, preserve incentives to work and improve the position of low earners. Unfortunately these aren’t always compatible. Trying to meet them with a flat rate of tax would require a low rate and high personal allowances. You can’t do that while trying to reduce the budget deficit.

There is a good case for simplicity. A flat tax achieves this, though, not because it imposes a uniform rate but because it ends exemptions. The complicated part of the calculation is to work out taxable income; once you’ve got that, the calculation is simple, whether you have one or several marginal rates. A flat tax is not suitable for a complex economy such as the UK.

Twitter: @OliverKamm

“The British tax system is unfair…a small but significant minority are paying far less than their fair share.” Read more

Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance has uncovered an ideological split between Cameron and Miliband | Daniel Finkelstein

The gap between David Cameron and Ed Miliband on Jimmy Carr’s tax bill seems uninteresting at first. Miliband’s assertion that politicians shouldn’t lecture on morality but should change the law appears to be a bit of (understandable) Opposition distancing. Understandable because, naturally, he thinks it’s immoral. But he can see that the whole moral attack might go wrong for Cameron.

I think that this gap is more interesting than it seems.

Cameron believes that things that are legal can be immoral, and that a politician can say that. Miliband does not agree. He thinks if things are immoral they should be made illegal. And there is no role for a politician to take moral stands without outlawing the subject of their attack.

In other words, they are having an argument about a core proposition of Cameron’s Big Society.

Twitter: @Dannythefink

“Albert Einstein once said that filing a tax return was too difficult for a mathematician and so required a philosopher.” Read more

Julian Assange | Doctors’ strike | Tony Nicklinson | tax avoidance

Assange’s escapades

Vaughan Smith posted £20,000 bail for Julian Assange before he scarpered into the Ecuadorian embassy yesterday. But Smith says he’ll still support the WikiLeaks founder even if he loses the money

The Times is less impressed: Assange’s flight is “the latest twist in a legal farce which has grown so wearisome that the temptation exists to tell the Ecuadorian Government that it can keep him”


Doctors strike today for the first time in 37 years. It is a “tantrum” of industrial action, says The Times

On the NHS, Paul Nurse, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, wants patient information opened up for the good of research


Tony Nicklinson, whose right to die battle continues in the High Court, is being condemned to live, says Camilla Cavendish

Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, apologises for Labour’s record on immigration…and chastises the Tories on theirs

With the Egyptian election results due today, Ed Husain sees a storm brewing: he forecasts bloody battles between the Muslim Brotherhood and outcast generals

“Rather than mount a perfunctory legal defence, it would be more impressive to hear beneficiaries of tax avoidance try to make a moral case for their action,” we say as our tax avoidance investigation rumbles on

(The Times, Thursday June 21, 2012)

Times Opinion today | Wednesday June 20, 2012


Legality clashes with morality as David Aaronovitch examines tax avoidance in light of The Times’s outing of Jimmy Carr and Take That

Watergate has brought us a “hysterical atmosphere of constant scandal in which it becomes impossible to discriminate properly between nonsense and wrongdoing,” says Daniel Finkelstein


Alice Thomson jumps to the defence of GPs as the “specialist generalists” we need to dish out specialist services (they’re still greedy for striking, though)

We need to patch up our churches and keep them fit for use by all in the community, says Nicholas Holtam, a trustee of the National Churches Trust

20-year-old Vicky Fowler Thunders about her difficulty finding work experience, let alone paid work

The Times says…

Aung San Suu Kyi “not only represents a better future for Burma, but testifies to the resilience of the human spirit in extreme adversity”

The Government’s Civil Service reforms don’t resolve the accountability question: ministers don’t have enough say over the appointment of senior civil servants

Great things have been achieved since the first Rio Conference on Sustainable Development

The ‘save Jimmy Carr’ argument seems to be based on the false idea that legality and morality are congruent: that it is the job of the law to tell us what is moral…Our first border must be that of conscience, not that of the law. Not least because the law can itself be immoral.

As The Times continues its investigation into tax avoidance, David Aaronovitch examines the conflict between law and morals when it comes to paying - or not paying - our dues.

Shaming tax avoiders: doing it the Norwegian way | Robbie Millen

The main moral of the Jimmy Carr brouhaha is that comedians’ accountants are always going to outsmart plodding Government officials. So if we want to clamp down on avoidance, how do we do it?

Well, there’s good old shame/transparency (delete as appropriate). In Norway, everyone’s tax returns are made public so it would be hard for a high-earning entertainer to disappear a big wodge of wonga without people quickly finding out.

Public scrutiny/prurience (delete as appropriate) keeps Norwegians honest. And the Norwegian way also brings much more pleasure than a Jimmy Carr gig.

You’ll find hours of tax-porn fun here. And for reference, here’s the skinny on Morten Harket, Eighties heart-throb and lead singer of A-Ha (who paid around £74,000 tax on earnings of about £209,000 in 2009).

Read more: The Times takes on the tax avoiders

A flat tax would end the fat cats’ avoidance | Hugo Rifkind

The awesome investigation and ongoing reportage in The Times by Alexi Mostrous on tax avoidance has left me thinking, and for the first time approvingly, about flat taxes.

Flat taxes are the idea that everybody pays the same rate of tax on everything. This would eradicate tax avoidance, because without variables there could be no such thing.

In the past, I’ve bristled at the idea, because it tends to be advanced at a low level, by rich folk on the Right who want to pay less.

Suddenly, though, I’m thinking about a high flat tax. A Left-friendly flat tax. 30 per cent? 35 per cent? You’d have to increase the tax threshold so as not to overly hit the poor, but it would change little for people in the middle, and force the super-rich to behave properly. Why not?

Twitter: @hugorifkind

Read more: in a leading article this morning, we say that tax avoidance “has got out of control” and that the scale of the avoidance in Britain “is, itself, a case for sweeping reform”.

Why do you think the UK has been the playground of the super-rich for so many years? Because of the nice weather?

“Gulliver” comments on today’s Times investigation into the thousands of wealthy people in Britain who pay as little as 1 per cent income tax. It is understood that comedian Jimmy Carr is the biggest beneficiary of K2, a Jersey-based tax scheme that shelters £168 million a year.

Leaders and Thunderer - Tuesday June 19, 2012

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