Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Caitlin Moran on benefits

Caitlin Moran has another go at her poverty and benefits column in the Times today, pinned onto Benefits Street. It's the usual stuff - 60% of us are 'on benefits' therefore something something. But there's one thing that slightly yanks my chain:
When the irony is, of course, that the working-class benefit fraud costs £1.2 billion a year, while tax evasion — inevitably a middle-class crime — costs £14 billion annually. £14 billion! That it is often repeated does not dim its outrage. The fact is simple: richer people steal more. You cannot trust them. Hide your espresso machine when they come round, fellow peasant, lest they sneak them into their Cath Kidston tote and make their escape in a Prius.
It's not entirely clear where she gets the figure - the latest HMRC figures show a "tax gap" of £35bn, of which tax evasion makes up £5.1bn and the "hidden economy" makes up another £5.4bn. But that's really the least of her problems. She classifies "tax evasion" as "inevitably a middle class crime" like, you know, smoking rollies from rolling tobacco that happens not to have been subject to duty. Or selling goods at a market stall without registering each sale for VAT. Or getting a casual job as a cleaner or labourer, getting paid cash-in-hand and not declaring it to the taxman. Middle-class crimes like that.


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