Big business is taxing my patience

WHEN our class was learning the dark art of economics, I must have been behind the bike sheds, making an obscene profit reselling fags bought with my dinner money.

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Little did I know I could have qualified for a career in the city had the Capstan been half-inched from my dad, but there you go.

The only fact about the financial crisis that makes sense to me is working folk are sick being stuck with the bill for the corporate and banking greed of their supposed fellow-citizens.

Five long years we have been paying, and those lights at the end of the tunnel are merely David Cameron and Alex Salmond's red faces over Europe.

It's hard enough getting your head round a deficit of one trillion pounds, but how we are clawing it back makes no sense to me.

The Tories are imposing welfare cuts on society's poorest, targeting housing benefit, tuition fees, pensions, you name it.

Some Scots even need food banks – in 2012, for goodness sake! – and we contemplate blowing billions on Trident.

No, I don't understand any of that, nor the madness that allows fat cats to grow fatter.

The UK's 1000 richest people are richer by £155billion over those five years, yet those earning £1m-a-year are getting a £42,000 tax cut.

Bankers who helped drop us in this mess, and are helping keep us there, will trouser £7bn in bonuses (and not one has yet been binned for the £13bn payment protection rip-off).

But we're all in this together, right? Aye, right.

Who but Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne can, with a straight face, claim "moral repugnance" for "aggressive tax avoidance".

Who but Foreign Secretary William Hague and his millionaire cabinet cronies sees nothing callous in spending £10,000 to stuff Albert the 120-year-old anaconda?

Vodafone avoided a £6bn tax bill this year. Like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Ikea, Starbucks, eBay and Asda they make fortunes in the UK and pay a pittance in tax.

UK companies next year will pay 23% in corporation tax, but experts estimate that 19 American-owned multinationals pay just 3% on British profits.

Tax Research UK claims £120bn is the chasm between what is owed to HMRC and what is collected. It also claims every £1 spent chasing tax dodgers brings back £60 for HMRC. So why so many tax office redundancies?

Let's stretch credibility and assume all the cuts combined surpass Iain Duncan Smith's £10bn welfare target. They won't, nothing like it, but for argument's sake let's add the £18bn in cuts already made by Osborne. Call it £28bn saved.

And, since we're dreaming, round it up to the entire £83bn in cuts proposed for this parliament.

Now set that £83bn in savings against the £95bn-a-year in tax collectively dodged by multi-nationals and individual high-rollers.

I know I was behind the bike sheds, but even I can work that one out.

nAS a snapshot of all that is crazy in this country, this lot takes some beating.

The poorest Scots die 20 years before the rich, with male life expectancy of just 68.7 years - the worst in Europe.

NHS health boards spent more than £4million in five years on mega-strong beds for patients weighing up to half-a-ton.

And Creative Scotland, under attack from 100 leading artists, gave away £70m last year in public money for such works of art as a rusty skeleton (£19,000), seed-filled wicker masks (£103,000), and a dance about maths (£86,000).

Sums it up, really.


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