Today the Telegraph has an interview with the “country’s top tax man”, Mr Dave Hartnett, urging householders not to pay tradesmen cash in hand, apparently because it only encourages them to avoid paying VAT.
““Tax provides the funding to run the country: hospitals, schools and everything else,” he says. “Every time someone pays cash in order not to pay VAT, the nation gets diddled.”
Quite apart from the fact that Mr “Dave” appears to confuse the concept of “the nation” with “the government” – if a tradesman diddles the Government out of VAT, that’s money he/she can then spend elsewhere in the nation – there’s a distasteful impertinence to the unspoken suggestion that we should all act as HMRC’s informal (and unpaid) enforcer-interns.
Adding impudence to the impertinence of this special pleading, the Telegraph website also has a poll, “Is it OK to pay cash in hand to tradesmen?”, which, if you try to submit your vote at a time when telegraph.co.uk is off having a tea-break, a quick snifter, a nice lie-down or whatever (which seems to be most of the time), comes up with this:
Really, I don’t know what the mysterious owners of the Telegraph, the mysterious Barclay twins – Gilbert and George? Gilbert and Sullivan? Eric and Ernie? – get up to all day on their mysterious island hideaway of Brecqhou, but surely they have enough time to take a break from stroking their mysterious fluffy white cats to check up on what a mockery Tony Gallagher is making of a once fine newspaper.