Look At It This Way - March 16, 2012

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NOTHING is certain but death and taxes. But how do you avoid quality of life being clobbered by the latter. We are taxed to work, to drive, to enter attractions, eat, drink, breathe?

Nothing new there. Under the Act of Making Good the Deficiency of the Clipped Money, William III taxed the living daylights out of us in the 17th century with tax paid the more windows you had. People bricked up and blotted out light and air to avoid paying.

In the 14th century John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, came up with the first poll (head) tax, inspiring Thatcher centuries later.

Two taxes truly rile me. Tax paid at the fuel pumps – along with the usual rise whenever a holiday looms – which puts me off short-break Britain, and others off coming here.

And VAT. There’s probably a perfectly good reason for calling it value added tax but I can’t work it out – and I studied economics.

Where’s the value, other than to the grasping bean counters of the Exchequer?

It doesn’t add value to me. Not when I’m stood outside The Tower looking at admission rates, which make patently and painfully clear just how much goes to the Chancellor.

Some say it puts visitors off from the start. I think it’s a shrewd move on Merlin’s part. Tourism is being hammered by 20 per cent VAT.

I’d stick George Osborne in the Blackpool Dungeon alongside the Pendle Witches. A pox on your tax, Minister.

VAT’s effectively a consumer tax, an everyman’s tax on everything we touch at point of purchase.

Britain may not be the most taxed nation in the EU but we have one of the highest work-no play ratios. It’s easier to enjoy quality of life in the sunshine – rather than face a hosepipe ban if the sun shines a few weeks in succession or the wrong sort of rain falls. It makes what’s left of leisure crucial to family life.

Today The Gazette launches its campaign to have VAT slashed for the tourism industry.

Ahead of the boss of Britain’s biggest budget hotel chain calling for support for tourism, Pleasure Beach company secretary David Cam lobbied MPs for a cut to VAT, establishment of a local economic development zone, and double summer time.

He also called for a seaside summit to thrash out issues besetting Blackpool and every resort.

An accountant, he offered a startling statistic. Social deprivation costs the state £1,062,000 a year here. That’s the pay-out for social and welfare benefits.

If he was Chancellor, he said, he would want to know why. He would “send someone out from the Cabinet, to sit in our town hall for 12 months, and talk to people about what can be done to halve the costs and help the area. That’s the way to do it.”

That’s the way to do it, indeed. Better than Punch and Judy politics – with no clout to make a difference.