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What Everyone Needs to Know about Tax: An Introduction to the UK Tax System




What Everyone Needs to Know about Tax: An Introduction to the UK Tax System

James Hannam

ISBN: 978-1-119-37578-4 March 2017 168 Pages

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You are paying much more in tax than you think you are

What Everyone Needs to Know About Tax takes an entertaining and informative look at the UK tax system in all its glory to show you just how much you pay, how the money is collected and how it affects ordinary people every day. Giving context to recent controversies including the Panama Papers, tax avoidance by multinationals, Brexit and more, this book provides a straightforward explanation of tax and the policy behind it for non-specialists — no accounting or legal knowledge is required. The system's underlying logic is illustrated through three 'golden rules' that explain many of the UK tax regime's oddities, and the discussion focuses on the way things are rather than utopian ideas about how they might be. Case studies show how the VAT on a plumber's bill all adds up; why fraudsters made a movie to throw HMRC off their scent; how a wealthy couple can pay so little tax on a six-figure income; and the way tracing the money you paid for your iPad sheds light why the EU is demanding Apple pay billions extra in tax.

Ever the political battlefield, tax is too important for you to rely on media hype for information. It affects everyone, every day, and it pays for voters and taxpayers to know more. This book leaves aside technical detail and the arcana of the tax code to give you a real-world look at how tax works.

  • Learn about the many ways that the tax system separates us from our money
  • Discover how Brexit could change the way we pay taxes
  • Understand how changing tax policy affects people's everyday lives
  • See through the rhetoric surrounding controversies in the media

With tax, we have to admit that there are no easy answers. No one enjoys paying them, but without them, the Government would shut down. Seeing through politicians' cant and superficial press coverage is critical for your ability to make the decisions that benefit you; What Everyone Needs to Know About Tax gives you the background and foundational knowledge you need to be a well-informed taxpayer.

About the author xi

Introduction xiii

1 Taxes on your income and earnings 1

Income tax and national insurance 1

National insurance contributions 3

Paying tax 7

Taxes on high earners 10

The Laffer curve 13

Sports, prizes and betting 16

With betting, the tax inspector always wins 18

The poverty trap 20

2 Taxes on what you spend 23

Value added tax 23

How VAT works 27

Zero rated and exempt from VAT 30

Europe, Brexit and VAT 32

Customs and excise 34

Excise duties 36

Fuel duty and green taxes 41

Oil and gas extraction 44

Green taxes 45

Global warming 47

3 Taxes on what you own 51

Capital gains tax 51

Paying capital gains tax 54

Taxes on homes and property 56

Inheritance tax 57

Stamp duty land tax 59

Council tax 62

Buy to let 63

The mansion tax and wealth taxes 65

Taxes on pensions and saving 67

Other ways to save 71

How to live comfortably while paying almost no tax at all 72

4 Taxes on business 77

Taxing business 77

Tax on the self]employed and small businesses 78

Tax on companies 79

Personal service companies 81

The tradesman’s entrance 84

Multinationals and international tax 86

Territorial taxes 88

Tax havens 90

A bit of BEPS 91

Where does big business make its profits? 93

Tax competition 97

Taxing what you can’t touch 99

Taxes on financial transactions 103

5 Taxes evaded, avoided and reformed 107

Film finance: how governments encourage planning, avoidance and evasion 107

Tax evasion 113

Tax avoidance and the general anti]abuse rule 117

A changing climate 119

Avoiding income tax 122

The new fight against aggressive avoidance 124

Tax planning 126

Tax reform 128

1. Stop cutting income tax and start cutting national insurance 130

2. Start the 45% tax rate at £100,000 instead of £150,000 130

3. Tax companies according to their accounting profits 130

4. Expand the scope of VAT 131

5. Introduce a minimum income tax rate for the wealthy while abolishing most income tax anti-avoidance rules and incentives 131

Conclusion: the Three Golden Rules of tax 133

The First Golden Rule: Lots of small taxes together add up to make big tax bills 133

The Second Golden Rule: No matter what name is on the bill, all taxes are ultimately suffered by human beings 134

The Third Golden Rule: Taxes are kept as invisible as possible 135

Index 139