Tax policy should be more taxotaxis than whack-a-mole

Any simile is flawed if you want to be pedantic enough. So it was with the heart of a pedant I read the following article from the New Statesman: Why any tax avoidance “clampdown” is a ridiculous game of whack-a-mole

But, I found the vision quite amusing. One of the reasons is that I thought the idea of tax legislation being a dull mallet-like instrument designed to shove its victim under ground with a bloody nose, a somewhat compelling description. Of course, I was picturing the mole as the good-natured bespectacled rodent from Wind in the Willows.

Perhaps the “mole” should be viewed as something more sinister. Something, say, like a chest-ripping alien:

Richard Murphy: "Hit him harder!"

Richard Murphy: “Hit him HARDER!”

I find some of the behavioural insights stuff very interesting and I think that it’s a shame policy makers don’t consider the behavioural impacts some of the more innocuous tax measures. Because, really, when you consider what the tax on enveloped properties (whatever else they’ve changed the name to by now) what the policy unit have really created is a tax incentive to let out high-end properties.

Of course, it’s not a bad idea, provided the property makes a profit. And HMRC can check the company tax return for allowable deductions to make sure that the property is paying council tax….

Anyway, taxotaxis is from the Latin taxare meaning “to assess or charge” (amongst other things) and the Greek tassein meaning “arrangement”. Taxis is a behavioural response to or from an external stimulus, including a directional response. So taxotaxis is the behavioural response to or away from a charge or assessment. And as far as I can tell, I just invented the term (all rights reserved etc).

It’s yonks since I’ve done psychology or biology so I’m sure somebody might point out that kinesis or tropism might be a better term…

But a brief prediction on the taxotaxis of putting a charge on properties worth over £2m which are held in companies and which are not open to the public should be that many properties worth over £2m which are held in companies will become open to the public.

Contrary to the big build up I’ve given this, it is actually not brain science.

So instead of getting a bigger mallet, or a bazooka as urged by the Staggers, perhaps a different approach is in order. A slightly more sensible one. One which considers that people aren’t soulless mechanically propelled rodents there simply to be hit for the pleasure of an overgrown child. They’re a bit smarter than that.

OK, that’s definitely now pedantry. I’m done here.

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About Ben Saunders

I'm a Chartered Tax Adviser and a freelance writer. This is my personal blog about, well, mainly taxation. I might put other stuff in. Who knows.
This entry was posted in Rambling, Talking Tax, Taxotaxis. Bookmark the permalink.

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