Sunday 31 December 2017

The Trashmen "Dancing with Santa" lyrics

The usual lyric sites don't have the lyrics to this fine song, so I have typed them up for future reference.

Thanks to Mike W, Frank and Peter for corrections and suggestions.

Capitalised words or phrases are references to other songs/artists, hopefully DBC Reed tell me if I've missed any.
[Spoken intro]

T'was the night before Christmas, all was quiet and still
Except for that house up on Blueberry Hill
The stockings were hung, it seemed all was right
But there were more than just sugarplums dancing that night...

[End of spoken intro]

Down in the basement, a guitar wails
Oh what a sight to see
Dancing Santa and his eight reindeer
Doing the Watusi

There was Little Annie and a Short Fat Fanny
And the wildest of rock'n'roll bands
And by the back door was an English boy
Singing 'I Don't Wanna Hold Your Hand'

Johnny Rivers and Maybellene
And a chick called Peggy Sue
And a-everybody's heard all about The Bird
And he was even there too


With a ho-ho-ho and his big round belly
Shakin' All Over like a bowlful of jelly
You should have seen those reindeer prance
The night they taught old Santa to dance

Well he laughed so hard and he laughed so loud
And he kept on dancing until
He woke all the kids and they had to come up
To that house on Blueberry Hill

Then he opened up his big bag of toys
With something for everyone
And he said kinda sly with a twinkle in his eye
'Well I never had so much fun'


With a ho-ho-ho and his big round belly
Shakin' All Over like a bowlful of jelly
You should have seen those reindeer prance
The night they taught old Santa to dance

Then he jumped in his sleigh and he cracked his whip
And disappeared from sight
But over the tree tops the sleighbells played
A rock'n'roll song that night

And now they say that Santa Claus-land
Is really something to see
'Cause all of his boys are making his toys
To the beat of the Watusi
Yeah, all of his boys are making his toys
To the beat of the Watusi
'Cause all of his boys are making his toys
To the beat of the Watusi [fade]

Saturday 30 December 2017

When will they ever learn? Just when


Yet another failed intervention. 

When will these idiots learn about 'unintended consequences'?

Nearly every failure in financial services can be traced back to some ill thought through intervention by some grotty bureaucrat or economically clueless politician.

Top tips of the year.

Here are a few things that everybody ought to know, but apparently doesn't.

1. If you are looking for a file in a folder on the computer, and you know what the first few letters of the file name are, you can sort them alphabetically and type in the first couple of letters of the file name, and it will skip to the first file with that name.

Well duh, you are probably thinking, doesn't everybody know that? Apparently not, I stumbled across it twenty years ago more or less by accident, but somebody who's worked in our office for at least ten years didn't (until I told her last month). She sorted her email inbox alphabetically by sender and then started laboriously scrolling down to one from 'Peter' instead of just highlighting one at random and typing in 'P-E-T'.

2. Assuming that you are like most people and struggle to find the end of the sticky tape, we all know you can fold over the end and stick it back on itself. Great, but as most sticky tape jobs require three hands, you then have to put down what you were holding in place, use both hand to tear off the end again, discard the wasted bit and return to the job. The best strategy is to stick the end back on slightly diagonally like so:

You can the prise the end off again single handed, using the other one to keep everything in place. I was pretty chuffed with this technique, but my wife told me that everybody already does this. So how come nobody ever told me??

3. When you are cooking something like lasagne, shepherd's pie, tuna pasta bake etc, the most difficult bit to wash up afterwards is where the crust burns onto the side of the 'roasting dish'. So I tried smearing butter round the top inch of the dish to stop it sticking and it works a treat, saved minutes on the washing up.

I bet that every cook in the world except me knew this, but it was never mentioned in any of the recipes I printed off. So there.

4. If you are going to look at a car that you are thinking of buying that is some distance away, don't make a long, boring and/or expensive journey by public transport if at all possible, get somebody to give you a lift by car.

I've made this mistake twice - once you get there, even if the car is not as described, the temptation is to just buy the damn' thing simply because it is less hassle driving it home than doing the same long, arduous and/or expensive journey by public transport again. As it happens, both cars turned out fine in the end, but I was just lucky with those (or prepared to throw some money at them).

My wife accompanied me by car today to look at an MGF (Mk2, VVC, manual)  today, an hour's pleasant drive away but two hours by public transport. The owner kindly let us take it for a spin, I hated it (nearly as much as I hated an MGF, Mk1,  semi-automatic I test drove from a garage round the corner), apologised profusely for having wasted his time and we had a pleasant hour's drive home again (in the MX5 Mk2 1.6 litre automatic). Faced with the choice of just buying it or slogging back on public transport, I would have probably caved in, bought it and regretted it bitterly later on.

Just to reassure myself I'm not completely irrational, I then took the MR2 (PFL, manual) for a spin to check whether it's really that much nicer to drive than the MGF. It is.

Friday 29 December 2017

Alienation from the Tories?

Just to follow up on the previous post about Universal Basic Income - a quick quiz. One of the quotes is from Engels and one is from a Tory minister. Who said what:

By the combined functioning of hands, speech organs, .... men were able to set for themselves and achieve higher and higher aims. The work of each generation itself became different, more perfect and more diversified.


Mankind is hard-wired to work. We gain satisfaction from it. It gives us a sense of identity, purpose and belonging … we should not be trying to create a world in which most people do not feel the need to work.

Its a funny old world isn't it? Marxist or Tory - our 'work', is at the centre of their 'moral' universe it seems!


I thought everybody already knew that this is how Apple operates?

From the BBC:

Apple has apologised after facing criticism for admitting it deliberately slows down some ageing iPhone models.

The company now says it will replace batteries for less and will issue software in 2018 so customers can monitor their phone's battery health. Some customers had long suspected the company slowed older iPhones to encourage customers to upgrade.

I know very little about this stuff, but that is their whole business model and I always suspected that they did it.

The clincher for me was after I bought my second Mac Mini in 2013 (or thereabouts), the bloody thing didn't have a CD/DVD drive, the 'genius' in the shop told me that Apple didn't make external CD/DVD reader/writers but I could just buy any generic one and plug it in.

So I bought a Samsung device for £40 which worked absolutely fine... until it stopped working a year or two later. I went back to the shop and the 'genius' told me that Apple now made external CD/DVD reader writers and Mac Minis were no longer compatible with the generic ones, so I had to buy an Apple one for about £80.

That's the clever bit about Apple - it doesn't just sell software (market largely cornered by Microsoft) or hardware (highly competitive with slim profit margins), it does both and they are interlinked in such a way that once you set off down the Apple road you are pretty much stuck on it for ever.

So much so, that there aren't any rival MP3 players any more. Well, there are of course, but they are all crap. Believe me, I tried to wean myself off IPods a year ago and I tried about three others which all went back to the shop after a couple of days and I ended up buying another IPod (good old Currys, with their "don't ask, don't tell" returns policy!). "

I really like the new Nationwide song

Thursday 28 December 2017

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (12)

In a paper published on
Frederick Harry Pitts, Lorena Lombardozzi and Neil Warner warn that:

Basic income may not be the ideal response to automation and technological unemployment envisaged by its proponents. In fact, it risks embalming our current economy defined by low-skilled, low-paid, and unrewarding work for longer than would otherwise be the case

They support this claim by asserting that the Speenhamland System was a type of basic income and then point out how the system failed.

However, from Wiki: The authorities at Speenhamland approved a means-tested sliding-scale of wage supplements in order to mitigate the worst effects of rural poverty. Families were paid extra to top up wages to a set level according to a table. This level varied according to the number of children and the price of bread.

This is what already happens with working families tax credit. It is not what most people would agree is a system of basic income. Straw man argument, case dismissed.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (430)

My attention has been drawn to a couple of oldies but goodies, good job I wrote up all the rebuttals for future cutting and pasting.

ShineyMart emailed me a link to this comment under a fairly balanced article about the Laffer Curve by Tim W at the Adam Smith Institute:

Tom Dodds: If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

LVT in place of all other taxes merely switches the method of collection. LVT becomes a cost of production of everything, filtering through to all products, including those bought by the very poor. As a consequence, the tax burden on the poor would go up through higher prices and people surviving on benefits would need more support.

As LVT is related to the value of land use, the army of tax employees merely switches from taxing individuals to calculating the value of land uses. Laffer curve still kicks in as landowners otherwise have no incentive to maximise productivity. Government would, of course, interfere to nudge 'healthy' uses - low LVT on Scottish oats for porridge, high LVT on Scottish grains for whisky.

My response, taken straight from the KLN blog:

We all know perfectly well that most stuff you buy in shops costs pretty much the same wherever you are in the country. Prices are the same in a Primark in a retail park at the edge of a low-income town as they are in Primark on Oxford Street, London. Research backs this up, wherever you shop in the UK, prices for similar goods are within a range of +/- one percent.

Q: But we also know that rent and rates for shops in the best locations are much, much higher than for shops in less favourable locations? So why is this so if retail prices are the same in all shops?

A: It's do do with volume. If a retailer has a net mark up of £1 on something and can sell 1,000 a week from Location A, but can only sell 100 a week from Location B, then by and large, the rent for a shop at Location A will be nearly £1,000 a week and the rent for the shop at Location B will be less than £100.

Observed facts, simple logic. Prices are fixed and volumes drive rents. Taxes on rents do not increase the total rent which a tenant will pay. If the tax on the shop at Location A is £800, then the rent net of taxes will fall to less than £200.

As to this bleating about "the poor", the taxes that hit them hardest - or cause most of them to be poor in the first place - are of course VAT and National Insurance contributions. So shifting to LVT is a straight win for them (putting a few thousand Poor Widows In Mansions to one side, whom we can sort out with a roll-up and defer option). And the rental value of farmland is so low it's not worth taxing (but let's scrap the farm land subsidies for a start).

His comment about the "army of surveyors" chimes in with a thoughtless aside in an otherwise sympathetic article on the Scottish Land Commission blog:

One important challenge associated with land value taxation is the issue of valuation. The principle of land value taxation requires valuers to assess the value of land separately from the value of any buildings or other assets that might be on it. This presents technical challenges, particularly in urban areas where vacant sites rarely change hands.

This is all old hat:

Compare and contrast: if the government wants to find out how much you earn, it has to employ people to do a lot of snooping, they have to see your payslips, employment contract, bank statements etc. Even with the force of the law on their side, people can still cheat. Most don't, because they can't be doing with the hassle of an investigation, but they would if they could. And these calculations have to be done from scratch every month, every quarter and every year. Last year's turnover, wage bill, income or profits are only a very rough guide to this year's.

In contrast, how difficult is it to establish the site premium of any home? Very easy indeed. Once all homes are valued and banded, then it is an easy matter to observe how rents and selling prices develop and index homes in different areas up or down accordingly, every year is an incremental exercise only.

There is also absolutely no need for internal inspections, that goes against the whole point of the tax!

The site premium depends on where a plot is, what sort of planning permission it has and how big it is, plus or minus a few external factors (like being next to a mobile phone mast), that's all. And HM Land Registry, the Valuation Office Agency and local planning departments already hold 99% of this information.

The point is that if the average total rent for generic 3-bed semi-detached houses in Area Such-and-such is £10,000 a year and the total rent for the zero baseline generic 3-bed semi is £4,000 a year, then the site premium is £6,000. All generic 3-bed semi detached houses would be allocated to Council Tax Band; the tax thereon in the zero baseline area would be close to £nil (by definition) and the tax on Band D homes in Area Such-and-such would be £6,000 a year (or a percentage thereof) and no back chat. The tax is the same for a semi which is in tip-top condition with brand new kitchen and conservatory as it is for one in the same area with no central heating and an outside toilet.

Clearly, there will have to be a bit of averaging across and interpolating between different types of building/use (residential, commercial, car parks etc), but even if some of the initial assessments are somehow objectively "wrong", this will all wash itself out after the next sale. The under- or over-assessment leads to a one-off windfall gain or loss for the current owner who sells, and the next owner is heartily indifferent, the size of the tax bill is just one of dozens of things to be taken into account when buying a home, just like the size and number of the rooms or how sunny the garden is and will be reflected in the price.

It's the same as interest rate changes - if they go up, it is bad for people with an existing mortgage, but prices will fall so future purchasers end up breaking even (smaller mortgage x higher interest rate).

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Making a bad situation worse.

From the BBC:

Universities must protect free speech and "open minds, not close them", Universities Minister Jo Johnson will say in a speech in Birmingham later. 

He will say "no-platforming", the policy of banning controversial speakers, is stifling debate. From next April, a new regulator - the Office for Students - will have the power to fine universities that fail to uphold free speech. Universities UK has said it will not allow legitimate debate to be stifled...

"No-platforming" is the practice of banning certain groups from taking part in a debate if their views are considered to be offensive or unacceptable. "Safe space" policies are intended to protect students from views and language they find offensive, including discrimination.

In 2016, nearly two-thirds of university students believed the National Union of Students was right to have a "no-platform" policy. That approach means people or groups on a banned list for holding racist or fascist views are not given a platform to speak on student union premises.

The NUS official no-platform list contains six groups including the BNP and Al-Muhajiroun, but individual unions and student groups can decide their own. At Canterbury Christ Church University, an NUS representative refused to share a platform with LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, whom she regarded as having been racist and "transphobic".

Bloody hell, it's bad enough with the PC brigade stifling free speech/not allowing idiots to make idiots of themselves in public/be heckled by opponents* but allowing the central government to define what is and what isn't a public event, and then put pressure on universities to allow X, Y or Z to speak, whether their contributions are relevant or welcome or not is even worse IMHO.

* Delete according to taste. The Peter Tatchell incident is at the one extreme where the NUS representative made an idiot of himself/herself by refusing to 'share a platform'; people like David Irving are at the other extreme where people make idiots of themselves by turning up and opening their mouths.

Sunday 24 December 2017

"Tycoons who backed the Brexit campaign accuse taxman of 'political attack' as HMRC uses 'obscure' inheritance law to demand bills of up to £2million"

Full article at The Daily Mail, it's light on detail but so are all the others.

This is what's known in the tax advising business as "a bloody outrage".
Here's a crash course in Inheritance Tax to set the background:

1. On death, the entire value of your estate is liable to Inheritance Tax at 40%.

2. This is subject to lots of exemptions, like the first £325,000 in value, exemptions for certain assets (shares in family business, main residence up to a certain value) and for certain transfers (to a surviving spouse or a charity) etc.

3. Obvious dodge #1 is to give stuff to your family before you die, so there's another rule that says all "transfers of value" made in the seven years before death are added back and treated as being included in your estate on death

4. But the IHT on lifetime transfers is only triggered when you die (but see 6 below). Such transfers of value are, for the time being, "potentially exempt transfers", the condition being that your live at least another seven years. There is no tax at the time of the transfer of value itself.

5. Please note, "transfer of value" means basically "gifts", but it is a bit more subtle than that, so let's stick to the correct term. Anybody who says that "IHT is payable on gifts" is either simplifying, being deliberately misleading or has missed the point.

6. Obvious dodge #2 is to give stuff to a discretionary trust or a company owned by family members, which in turn can make transfers to named or defined people. Trustees/directors are a continuing body, and so cannot die, and the beneficiaries/shareholders do not own the assets directly (so the value of the assets can't be included in their estates when they die). This is blocked/discouraged in two ways:
- When you transfer stuff into a discretionary trust or a company owned by family members, this counts as a 'chargeable lifetime transfer', which triggers IHT of up to 20% of the value of the assets, and
- Assets owned by a discretionary trust are liable to a smaller IHT charge every 10 years (a maximum of 6% on total value of assets in the trust) to even out. This doesn't apply to companies, because the value of the shares is included in people's estates.

That's 90% of what you need to know.
So, if you give a large amount of stuff to your children and die within 7 years, there's IHT on that (total assets of family unchanged), that's a transfer of value.

Conversely, while you are alive, it's your money and if you spend it on yourself, i.e. blow it all on wine, women and song, there's no IHT on that (total assets of family reduced), it is not a (gratuitous) transfer of value.

While this is blindingly obvious, there is a section in the IHT Act 1984 that makes this clear, namely section 10(1):

Dispositions not intended to confer gratuitous benefit

(1) A disposition is not a transfer of value if it is shown that it was not indented, and was not made in a transaction intended to confer any gratuitous benefit on any person and either—

(a) that it was made in a transaction at arm’s length between persons not connected with each other, or
(b) that it was such as might be expected to be made in a transaction at arm’s length between persons not connected with each other.

There was no 'gratuitous benefit' on VoteLeave or LeaveEU. They received the money on the strict understanding that they would spend it on normal stuff like employing campaigners and advertising on an arms' length basis, which they duly did. And the employees and advertisers did not receive a gratuitous benefit either, they were just providing services for the normal payment.

Even if there were gratuitous benefit, VoteLeave and LeaveEU are not discretionary trusts, so there would be no immediate charge. Neither are they family-owned companies.

The Bremoaner in Chief has written an article which is about as wrong as you can get. He'd fail the tax adviser entrance exam with drivel like this. The donors might or might not be wealthy; might or not have indulged in tax planning, and the recipient organisations might or might not have exceeded spending limits, but all that is entirely irrelevant to the matter in hand.

He is also incapable of replying to the simplest technical question.
I accept that the position would be murkier if any of the donors dies within seven years of having made the donations.

Section 24 states that donations to political parties are not exempt transfers of value, unless it has at least two elected MPs or one MP and the party got 150,000 votes (presumably at the last election).

IF (and that's a big IF) VoteLeave and LeaveEU are to be treated as political parties for these purposes, it means that donations to them will be added back to the total value of the donor's estate IF he dies within seven years of having made the donation.

If my analysis is incorrect on all three counts*, then just about every donation to UKIP (apart from those made in the brief period that Douglas Carswell was a legit elected UKIP MP) would have triggered Inheritance Tax.

UPDATE: Sobers reminds us in the comments that some private individuals in Scotland made £1 million donations to both 'Yes' and 'No campaigns, and these people were not hounded for IHT.

HMRC did not issue such demands in relation to those earlier donations and HMRC took a year and a half to issue the demands in relation to the recent ones, which suggests that they are not too sure of themselves.

There is another general rule in tax that the taxpayer is given the benefit of the doubt if the rules are not entirely clear.

Alternatively, HMRC have to show that the taxpayer has somehow achieved an outcome (passing assets to family members) in such a way as to try and circumvent legislation which is clear.

* HMRC would have to show that the donations do not fall within s10(1). If they don't, then HMRC have to show that VoteLeave and LeaveEU are to be treated as discretionary trusts; alternatively, HMRC have to show that VoteLeave and LeaveEU are to be treated as political parties AND to wait and see whether any of the donors dies within seven years.
Right, having got that off my chest, I am now off to rejoin the Xmas Eve festivities, as I hope you will too :-)

Saturday 23 December 2017

Reader's Letter of The Day

Ed Spalton emailed me a link to an article/letter at the Campaign for an Independent Britain website, which the Derby Telegraph also published as a reader's letter.

Jack K has kindly cut and pasted the article in the comments, it's recommended reading. Attention to detail, that's what we need now.

Friday 22 December 2017

I own land! Give me money!

Spotted by Lola in The Birmingham Mail:

Bailiffs have entered into Birmingham’s historic Council House to claim goods and settle an unpaid city council debt.

Two High Court enforcement officers are understood to be going around the building’s back offices taking stock of items they might be able to seize to settle the bill in scenes reminiscent of TV show Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away. It has been branded a ‘farcical’ situation for Europe’s largest local authority to have failed to settle a bill to the extent that it is now on the receiving end of a court enforcement order. The council is disputing the debt.

Hmm. And what was the nature of the original claim..?

According to council sources the issue surrounded a private landlord chasing unpaid rent from a private tenant whose housing benefit, issued by the city council, had been stopped.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Allotments vs commercial farms

Contrasting those two is a good way of illustrating how taxes and subsidies affect the way that people combine the three factors of production: land, labour and capital.

Commercial farms

- Land is heavily subsidised (CAP payments, inheritance tax breaks etc).
- Capital is taxed (the tractor manufacturer pays tax on his profits and wages; farm buildings are liable to business rates) and  moderately subsidised (VAT refunds for new equipment and income tax deductions for capital allowances)
- Labour is heavily taxed (income tax and NIC)


- Land is heavily taxed i.e. the local council charges a vast multiple of what a farmer would be prepared to pay per fraction of an acre.
- Capital is more heavily taxed (VAT on new equipment and no income tax deductions)
- Labour is not taxed at all as allotment gardening for 'own use' counts as a hobby.

The results are immediately obvious if you just look at them.

Commercial farmers use a lot of land, a fair amount of capital (tractors etc) and as little labour as possible per unit of food produced. When did you last see somebody actually working in a field?

Allotment holders use as little land as possible, barely any capital (it's all bits and pieces held together with twine) and a lot of labour per unit of food produced. A lot of them maximise their growing area by building frames for climbing plants, cloches and so on.

(Some commercial farms tend more towards the allotment model, i.e. the farmers who grow things like mushrooms, tomatoes and strawberries in polytunnels or greenhouses, which have to be hand picked, but let's not get bogged down in that.)

Ergo, to maximise food production and employment (for a given land area), we should get rid of farm subsidies and collect taxes from land instead of from labour and capital. Again, I cheerfully admit that very few British people want to work on farms, that's a cultural shift that has taken place over the last century or so, but so what? If demand for farm labour increases and wages go up accordingly, who's to say the cultural shift can't be reversed slightly?
The other wrinkle here is that farm land is barely worth taxing as its value is so low compared to developed and urban land (perhaps 1%-2% of the total UK land value), plus it's difficult for a non-expert to value (unlike urban land).

But at least we could e.g. scrap the farmland subsidies and the VAT refunds and exempt farming wages and profits from income tax, corporation tax and national insurance (assuming that the current subsidies and taxes approximately net off, which I think they do, so that the food growing industry as a whole is not a net loser in the short term).

The only real argument for taxing agricultural land at a nominal amount (£20 per acre per year, let's say) is to discourage the use of very marginal land, which can then be re-wilded (The George Monbiot argument).

Monday 18 December 2017

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (11)

Spotted by Mombers in The Guardian:

You can see the attractions of a basic income for Silicon Valley. Firms such as Uber, whose drivers are classified as self-employed “partners” rely on this risk-shift model. Even as Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, heaps praise on a basic income, the tech giant does all in its legal power to avoid tax and dodge paying its fair share towards the social infrastructure it relies on.

The left must not allow itself to be seduced. A basic income is a distraction from these core issues of economic power; a radical-sounding excuse to look the other way from the less glamorous, more complex question of how to ensure labour market rights are properly enforced. Accepting a deterioration in employment rights and working conditions in exchange for a basic income could be dangerously counterproductive...

The left will have to pick its battles. It must focus on winning the right to a decently paid job for all, not sell out by extolling a basic income as a panacea for the ills of the modern labour market. It must choose the fight for power, not the fight for a dribble of cash.

Jeez, that's the diagonal comparison from Hell.

The fair comparison is, would a Citizen's Income "work" better than the current welfare system? The answer depends on what you think the exact point of a welfare system is and what is wrong with the current one, but the answer is "Yes of course".

This is quite a separate topic from employment rights; working hours; the minimum wage; the taxation of employment income; improving training and re-training to help people get and keep a job; and/or how to deal with monopolies. We have to deal with those in parallel. Nobody said that we have to "accept a deterioration in employment rights and working conditions in exchange for a basic income", that's utter horseshit.

Fun Online Polls: Bitcoin, Trump and Russian interference in the Presidential election.

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Bitcoin is...

A decentralised digital currency - 25%
A massive great pyramid scheme - 63%
Other, please specify - 11%

A lot of people left a comment saying "both", with the benefit of hindsight, I should have included this as an option.

I'm with the majority on this, thanks to everybody who took part.

By the way, if you know how to sell Bitcoin, would you be so kind as to send me an email and explain? Ta!
The whole Russiagate (are we calling it that yet?) saga rumbles on.

Originally, I assumed it was something that the Clinton team invented to discredit Trump, but now it looks as if Trump is really botching a cover-up i.e. there must be something in it.

So that's this week's Fun Online Poll.

"Did Trump collude with Russia in the 2016 Presidential election?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (429)

Emailed in by Patrick H, from an estate agent's website(!):

LVT could in fact be a great replacement for council tax, a tax which many believe is in desperate need of an update. Economists love the idea of a land tax because land is a fixed entity, waiting to be used, therefore increasing the demand for land will not reduce its supply. So, it should not distort public behaviour in the way that other taxes do.

Many taxes appear to discourage useful public behaviour: national insurance discourages employers from hiring; stamp duty discourages mobility among home owners and council tax can discourage landlords from improving their properties. In contrast, LVT would make land use more productive. This tax would remain the same amount, regardless of how well the land is being used, meaning that if you owned land it would be more profitable for you to use your land to its full potential.

All in all, very positive. Here's the "but..."

So why has this ever-popular tax not been introduced? There are practical barriers to introducing LVT to London. It will not always be easy to identify land owners because often there are complex lease arrangements and multiple people can own a plot of land. There is also always the political risk involved with charging the public with another tax.

The man's at least asking the right questions...

1. Identifying land owners for 99% of land by value is easy, see here. My sister did conveyancing in London for twenty years and said that she only saw unregistered land once or twice. There will be a few blanks, but the council just has to deliver a letter or stick up a poster at the gate to a field inviting the owner to register and pay the tax, failing which, the council will take it over and rent it out.

2. Working out how the tax is split between leaseholders and freeholders is also easy if you apply common sense, and might result in a lot of interests being merged.

3. If there are multiple owners, so what? Think of all the couples who jointly own a house and share the Council Tax, mortgage, insurance etc. If a group of people own a rented building, then it's even easier, the LVT is paid out of the gross rental income and they can split up the net income in the same way as they did before.

4. LVT clearly should be a replacement for existing taxes, starting with all taxes that relate to land and buildings - Council Tax, Business Rates, SDLT, Inheritance Tax, all the planning fees and charges and so on.

... and making a couple of good points of his own...

The Tories have harnessed the public reservation by labelling LVT as a “garden tax”, once they had spotted it in Labours manifesto, suggesting that the Labour party would have you kissing goodbye to any beautiful leafy green havens in your neighbourhood if they had their way. The nickname of “garden tax” seems entirely inappropriate when one remembers that council tax already factors in larger gardens.

More to the point, if you look across the whole country, the size of a garden has precious little impact on the value of a home; what matters most is its location, location, location. A big detached house in Newcastle is worth less than a two-bed flat in most parts of London.

Sunday 17 December 2017

"Farmer, 49, gored to death by an 'angry and aggressive' 600kg bull"

From The Daily Mail:

The 49-year-old Warrnambool Midfield Meat worker was attacked by the large Friesian steer at 9.30am at a property in Dunkeld, Victoria, on Friday morning, The Standard reported.

He was weighing cattle when he was mauled by the "aggressive" animal, police said.

"He suffered fatal injuries. The man has managed to get out of the yards and was near the loading ramp. When located he was unconscious and not breathing and was unable to be revived," Hamilton police Sergeant David Walkley said.

The animal has been put down*.

* Wasn't the bull going to be slaughtered anyway? What's the difference?

Saturday 16 December 2017

Daily Mail on top form

Bodies of billionaire pharmaceutical magnate and his wife are found hanging side by side next to their indoor swimming pool of their $5.4million Toronto home

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (428)

Wiggiatlarge in the comments at Broad Oak Magazine:

"The author of this has been on a mission to implement LVT as the prefered method of tax, he is entitled to his view, but no tax is perfect and many far more qualified than myself have taken apart aspects of LVT on his site, the author also rather spoils his pitch by using phraese like "homies" as a derogatory term for all home owners (1) and feels for some strange reason that anyone who has a garden (2) should bear the sins of mankind (3), all rather strange."

1. That's a straightforward lie. As I have pointed out many a time, "Home-Owner-Ist" does not mean owner-occupier. Not all owner-occupiers are Home-Owner-Ists; not all Home-Owner-Ists are owner-occupiers. I and most Land Value Taxers are owner-occupiers and we are not "Home-Owner-Ist". This is just my catch-all term for:
- people who celebrate high and rising house prices;
- people who think the terms "land and buildings" and "property" are interchangeable;
- people who say that income tax or poll tax is fairer than LVT without realising that they are two extremes and that LVT combines the best aspects of those taxes without their worst aspects;
- people who agree that the value of land is dictated by its location, location, location while denying the existence of the concept of 'community generated land value';
- people who claim or even believe that the 2008 recession was caused by Labour government deficit spending and not by the land price/credit bubble bursting
- etc.

2. Anybody who thinks that Land Value Tax is a 'garden tax' has no grasp of reality. It is a charge based on the value of a location. Anybody can look this up for themselves - in the UK, the average value of a flat is approximately equal to the average value of a semi-detached house with a garden. So clearly, the size of your garden barely matters, it all depends where your garden (or home) is.

3. Who said anything about 'bearing all the sins of mankind'? Does he think that people who go to work (and pay income tax) should 'bear all the sins of mankind'?

The value of any bit of land is down to the extra advantages you can enjoy by occupying that location, location, location. There are thousands of factors, but a major one is being within easy commute distance of a decent job or having lots of potential workers and customers within easy commute distance of your business. And what you are paying for is the right to exclude all others from doing your job or taking your workers/customers; so you are placing a burden on them equal and opposite to the value you are enjoying.

Sure, people can commute in from further away and do a similar job, but that extra commute time is a burden for the other person. Similarly, there are people who live closer to your place of work than you do, they are placing a burden on you.

Therefore, it seems fair and reasonable to me for people to pay compensation (i.e. LVT) accordingly, and for everybody to receive an equal share of the compensation paid by all other land owners (whether that is in terms of public services or a straight cash payout).

There's no point bleating that "I paid for it and it's my land and therefore shouldn't have to pay further compensation", you are still placing a burden on others. What if I move in next door to you and listen to music at top volume all night long? I'm clearly placing a burden on you, and you wouldn't be too happy if I argue that "I've paid for my sound system and CDs and have no duty to minimise or mitigate the burden I place on you".

Thursday 14 December 2017

"Dacre ‘proud of himself’ for trousering half a million in EU subsidies while branding people traitors"

The Daily Mash on top form.

The story appears to check out, see The Guardian.

Death by cattle

Via @The_Sumoking, from The London Economic:

A veteran dairy farmer was killed by his own cattle as he tended to them – something he had done “thousands of times”, an inquest heard. Brian Swales, 67, went to check on his 17 Friesian heifers and one bull like any other day after one was described as “acting lame”.

But mystery remains over what happened as the grandad-of-two was alone and no-one saw how he came to die. North Yorkshire Coroner’s Court heard he suffered broken ribs and lacerations to his lungs resembling crush injuries. Reports at the time claimed he had been was trampled by the bull, but a coroner said it was impossible to tell what happened...

They just finally snapped, is my guess.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Daily Mail letting itself down badly

Retired nurse, 61, who strove to be 'the perfect housewife tried to murder her business consultant husband, 64, with a bread knife in their upmarket home

Sorry, but simply describing a home as "upmarket" is not good enough. We need to know what it would sell for.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Sometimes you really have to wonder at it all...

"Reducing the role of government in education has many advantages. The recent history of Iberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan shows how government education policies were major factors in provoking the conflicts. Reducing the temptation for governments to use education for their own ends would be very positive. Moving education as far as possible outside government control could also help reduce corruption. And private education, by delivering higher education standards, can help bring about a better educated populace, which would act as a bulwark against states oppressing their people"
If it was not for the giveaway that this refers to Africa the whole section could well refer to the reasons for the ongoing failure of the nationalised UK education system - and how to fix it.
From here by the way.

"Nothing like this ever happens in Tollesbury."

From The Metro:

Farage the runaway emu escaped its home to frolic in the snow in Essex. But he had his fun cut short when he was put in a headlock by a man and returned home. Shocked residents of Tollesbury noticed the flightless bird running around the streets at 11am yesterday before heading into the village graveyard.

Resident Matthew Devonport was ‘flabbergasted’ when he saw the drama on the way to the park with his child. He told Essex Live: ‘We came up to the churchyard and there was an emu there running through the gravestones, it was being chased round the churchyard by three men. ‘One of the men managed to get it in a head lock by its neck and he was took back home. It left a trail of feathers all around the churchyard.’

He added: ‘The lady owner was very grateful and shook the men’s hands. I was absolutely flabbergasted! Nothing like this ever happens in Tollesbury.’

Er... quite obviously, this is exactly the sort of thing that happens in Tollesbury.

Why a "Brexit deal" is not that important.

Ed Spalton left this comment here.

"Missing so far from this interesting correspondence is the fact that since 1994, the EU itself has been treaty-bound to accept globally agreed standards from such bodies as ISO, UNECE, Codex Alimentarius etc.

Although these come to us as EU regulations, they are made elsewhere and Brussels simply transcribes them. The standards for motor vehicles, for instance, come from UNECE in Geneva and are also accepted by many other countries than those in the EU.

Codex Alimentarius has a section dealing with fish products globally and Norway presently chairs this and the organisation effectively tells the EU what to do. The Scandinavian countries have a different regulatory outlook to the dominant Franco/German axis of the EU but, like the UK, those states in the EU have no voice on the global bodies where the decisions are actually made. They are bound by the "common position" decided by the EU Commission.

Norwegian friends tell me that they often receive unofficial requests from fellow Scandinavian countries in the EU to oppose the official EU line when the global bodies are making their decisions. I have not looked into financial regulation but believe that the BASEL accords set the parameters for EU regulation.

TOYOTA has a car factory near us and the management made a big point of saying the UK must be at " the top table" where regulations are made. I pointed out to a UKIP MEP that the top table was at UNECE in Geneva, not Brussels - so he could easily demolish that argument. He was apparently uncomprehending and replied " But I am campaigning against the EU, nit the UN". As Homer Simpson sometimes remarks " Doh!"

I have alluded to this before, but in general terms - Ed gives the specific examples. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, not much will change because so many specific things are dealt with by international agreements to which the EU is merely one party (including 'free trade' agreements between the EU and third countries); by default these will continue to apply to the UK and the UK will thus be at lots of "top tables" in its own right. The list of such agreements, conventions and organisations is more or less endless, as is the list of things that are covered.

Monday 11 December 2017

Fun Online Polls: Xmas songs and Bitcoin

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Which is the most Christmassy Beatles-related song?

Beatles "Christmas time is here again" - 0%
John Lennon "Happy Xmas (war is over)" - 13%
Paul McCartney & Wings "Mull of Kintyre" - 2%
Paul McCartney "Wonderful Christmas time" - 36%
All of the above - 5%
None of the above - 38%
Other, please specify - 5%

I'd call that a narrow win for "Wonderful Christmas Time" (36% plus the 5% who voted "All of the above") with "None of the above" in close second place. Which is logically impossible answer, unless you believe all the songs listed to be exactly equal in terms of Christmassy-ness or un-Christmassy-ness.
Steven-L's post of yesterday about Bitcoin has prompted this week's Fun Online Poll.

"Bitcoin is..."

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Popular delusions and 18 years on from the dotcom crash, like clockwork or coincidence?

Copy and paste from BTL over at Coindesk (click to enlarge)...

Responding to the thesis that the smart money may be about to run for the exit via selling bitcoin futures contracts, Dennis says:

"Even if I DID want to indulge in CME Bitcoin futures, why the hell would I want to settle in a rapidly devaluing fiat dollar??? As a trader, I don't even trade pairs with fiat any more. All of my trades today are for arbitrage on other cryptocurrencies."

To Dennis it doesn't matter if bitcoin is being pumped and dumped, because Dennis never wants to see his 'fiat' again anyway.  He's made his mind up it's worthless and he wants to keep his coins and tokens thank you very much.  

The comments over there are a goldmine, here's another taster:

I wanted to write something clever and witty, but I think I'll just repeat some of the above comments word for word.  At this level of irony and lack of self-awareness there's really nothing much I can add.

"Yeah, I read that no actually Bitcoin is involved in anything having to do with this new futures market.  So. Yeah. This whole new phase seems ridiculous."

"They create markets out of thin air and run a casino Las Vegas probably idolizes.  All the while they say everyone else is some sort of immoral degenerate gambler.  But yeah, the CME futures for Bitcoin have nothing to do with actual Bitcoin."

Christmas Cars

Saturday 9 December 2017

Daily Mail on top form

Married businessman, 45, accused of raping a 'flirty' woman after a heavy drinking session at his £1million family home

Friday 8 December 2017

Like an early morning mist over County Down...

Graeme Leach on top form in City AM:

With free trade, the Irish border is an issue for the EU, not the UK

We are told this is a problem with no solution, that it will see us crashing out of the EU with no deal, or that the DUP won’t play ball, leading to the end of the party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives.

The problem is seen as unfathomable because the solution has to deliver so much: no membership of the Single Market or Customs Union, no physical border crossings, and no red line through the Irish Sea. And just for good measure, it has to avoid the threat of a veto by the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

All of this can be addressed in one fell swoop. If the UK chose to pursue genuine free trade post-Brexit, the border issue would become an ex-problem. If Britain decided to exercise its sovereign power and implement zero tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports, the border issue would disappear like an early morning mist over County Down*.

* I don't know much about weather systems over the nothern part of Ireland, but I'll take his word for it that the early morning mists disappear quickly.

Thursday 7 December 2017

That's put the cat among the pigeons...

When the Guardian or the Daily Mail publish something a bit edgy (judged by their readers' standards), they usually block comments, which The Daily Mail did for this article:

As UK land value hits 5 trillion pounds, calls for new tax rise

Land is Britain's most valuable asset, increasing more than fivefold since 1995, the country's statistics office said on Tuesday, prompting calls to introduce a new tax to curb a soaring housing market driven by rising land prices.

To my pleasant surprise, they allow three organisations to put in a favourable word for LVT (New Economics Foundation who are left-wing, the Institute for Economic Affairs who are right-wing and Shelter who are bleeding heart liberals) and no comments from Home-Owner-Ist organisations.

The underlying ONS statistics are most interesting:

To sum up:
Land - £5,018 bn
Buildings - £3,518 bn
Machinery and stocks - £1,097 bn
Intellectual property etc. - £189 bn
Deposits minus debts - £(21) bn
Total - £9,801 bn

Yup, land and buildings is 85% of the total, which illustrate why having a general wealth tax is completely pointless.

The net value of financial assets and liabilities is, unsurprisingly, plus/minus nothing, so not worth taxing. Firstly because financial assets are already taxed anyway (tax on interest income and inflation), and if you did impose a wealth tax on them as well, the corollary is you'd have to allow liabilities as a deduction, which encourages gearing and leveraging, which is part of what causes the problem in the first place.

Machinery and intellectual property generates income, which is already taxed, which is much easier than getting people to declare what they own and agreeing values. And we'd rather have more of this stuff not less (assuming that the real value of patents etc is unchanged when the statutory protection expires). For sure, privately owned/used cars and equipment don't generate taxable income in themselves, but so what? We still want more of this stuff, not less.

That leaves bare land (excluding actual buildings thereon, which are real capital), which makes up (by ONS measurement) more than half of total 'wealth', as the only major category worth taxing (doesn't depreciate, relatively easy to value and can't be shifted abroad).

My estimate of total rental value of UK land is about £250 billion, which works out (as I expected) at about 3% of the value of land and buildings, or 5% of the underlying land value. LVT is calculated on the basis of the land element but is secured on the building as well, so the 3% is the more relevant figure.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Daily Mail on top form

Serena Williams is ticketed $281 for speeding near her $2.5million Florida mansion

Economic Myths: "Rail unions blamed for rising train fares"

Via MBK, fimsy excuse of the week from The Times. The only actual hard facts in the article to back up that claim are:

However, in a direct challenge to Britain’s powerful rail unions, The Times understands that ministers will only consider the move to CPI if unions lower their wage demands. RPI is currently used to calculate pay rises and last year staffing costs on the railway reached more than £2.8 billion.

That £2.8 billion figure is meaningless unless you compare it with total revenues of their employers, which appear to be about £10 - £11 billion according to this.

That doesn't seem disproportionate to me. All things being equal, whether rail worker salaries go up by CPI or RPI should not have any major effect on ticket prices, which are set by demand (supply being largely fixed), regulations (price caps) and subsidies.

Whether rail companies are fundamentally over-staffed, or even under-staffed is a separate topic.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Fun Online Polls: Royal weddings, riots and Beatles-related Xmas hits

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Will there be riots after next year's Royal Wedding?

Probably - 35%
Probably not - 65%

OK, I'm in the minority on this, maybe this will be the Royal Extravagant Display of Wealth that bucks the trend and is not followed/accompanies by riots.

Thanks to all 69 who took part.
December wouldn't be December without an Xmas-related poll. I think I've already done real tree/artificial tree/neither, so let's do music again.

"Which is the most Christmassy Beatles-related song?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Monday 4 December 2017

Oh Ho. Here we go...

There is nothing that governments hate more than competition, especially when it comes to the monopoly of money.  Hence I am entirely unsurprised by this.

The whole tax evasion / criminality meme is just an excuse.  I have no doubt at all that crims are using Bitcoin - but they use cash, especially USD, even more.  What was that story I heard about the Medellin narcotics cartel allowing for a 10% wastage in the accounting of their cash balances because rats were eating into its piles and piles of Dollar bills?  And the 1930's USA policy of making private gold holdings illegal and demanding that citizens exchange all their gold holdings for paper money?

When governments get desperate they always trend toward totalitarianism.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Good old-fashioned policing

From The Telegraph:

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: "Sam was in a critical condition and despite the best efforts of emergency services he sadly later died at hospital.

"He was a talented footballer who had recently started playing for Hattersley FC. He went to Audenshaw School with many friends and lived at home with his parents Sarah and Gary in Denton.

"He has a big brother called Scott, 21, and an older sister called Charlie, 20, and had just become an uncle to his brother’s new baby, Lilly.

"His family said they are completely heartbroken by their loss and although nothing will ever replace losing Sam they hope everyone remembers him for the fun, outgoing and friendly boy he will always be."

Sergeant Lee Westhead, of GMP's Serious Collision Unit, added: "My thoughts are with the victim's family who are being looked after by specially trained officers at this difficult time.

"Whilst we work to uncover how this has happened and piece together the moments before the collision, I am asking the public to help in any way that they can.

"If you were in the area at approximately 5.25pm on December 1 and saw a pedestrian on the motorway, or have dashcam images, please get in touch and share this information."

In accordance with time-honoured tradition, they thank the other emergency services, read out the victim's CV and make a brief eulogy before getting down to the ugly business of calling for witnesses.

Saturday 2 December 2017

Fun with numbers (race to the bottom)

From The Evening Standard:

Fast-food takeaways will be banned from opening within 400 metres of schools in a bid to tackle the capital’s child obesity epidemic.

In addition, all new chicken, fish and chip and pizza outlets will have to sign up to minimum healthy food standards before getting planning permission. Sadiq Khan will announce the policy in his draft London Plan, the capital’s “planning bible”, due to be published later this week.

You know the answer is going to be 'zero', but let's do the numbers.

400 yds = 366 metres.

A circle with a radius of 366m has a surface area of 420,000 sq m = 0.42 sq km.

There are approx. 3,700 schools in Greater London (24,372 x 8 million/53 million).

3,700 schools x 0.42 sq km = 1,554 sq km.

Surface area of Greater London 1,569 sq km

I was a bit slow on the uptake here.

Dan Cookson beat us all to it, and even the BBC has pointed out that "In some parts of London, the only places that new fast food outlets would theoretically be allowed are in the middle of parks or the River Thames."

Friday 1 December 2017

A version of "Right to Buy" we can fully support

From the FT:

The UK government is set to book a loss of around £800m from its largest privatisation of student loans, raising questions over the valuation of tens of billions of pounds of remaining graduate debt.

The controversial sale of a batch of student loans this week is expected to raise around £1.7bn, according to a Financial Times analysis of deal documentation.

The loans, which had a face value of £3.7bn last year, are part of a total of £43bn in loans made to students up to 2012, which are currently on government books valued at just under £30bn, according to the Department of Education’s latest published accounts, as of the end of March this year.

Greater minds than mine have already pointed out, if the government happy to sell on the loans for 40p in the £1* to loan sharks, why not just give ex-students the right to buy back their own debts for 40p in the £1, i.e. pay 40% of the face value in cash and have the rest written off?

An MSP (can't track down who) said that this would be a good kind of "Right to Buy".


Barclays is acting as sole arranger for the sale, alongside bookrunners Credit Suisse, Lloyds and JPMorgan. Rothschild is acting as an independent adviser to the government.

If ex-students buy back their own loans, these middlemen won't earn their juicy commissions.

* The number is not plucked out of thin air, the loans being sold that cheaply are ones originally made between 2002 and 2006, so it's unlikely they'll ever be fully repaid. But let's gloss over that bit.