Monday, 21 June 2010

Why VAT on food and books isn't a bad thing

Why on earth shouldn't VAT be levied on food and books? Well, the argument is that VAT is a regressive tax, that the poor would suffer and that it would be unfair. Hang on a minute. Just how many books do the poor buy? Despite books of outstanding quality having been available at dirt-cheap prices for almost two decades, the net book agreement having gone by 1997, the number of books bought by the poorest in society has risen by about zero. Their shelves are filled with DVDs (VAT at 17.5%) and computer games (VAT at 17.5%).

And food, too, should be taxed. Food is so cheap that the recycling mafia is making a whole industry on the basis of the volume that we throw away. People, especially the 'poor', have grown so used to cheap, available food with no preparation that they have forgotten how to cook. I eat extremely well but very cheaply, being an enthusiastic and skilled artist in the kitchen. Lunch yesterday was a Croque Cheval and a can of beer. A slow-roasted pork belly provides dinner and sandwiches for three days. The cheapest beef shin and skirt transforms into a rich and succulent Goulash after three hours in a slow oven. And once you can make a simple roux, then every pasta sauce you care to create is yours for pence, incorporating whatever scraps and left-overs you have in the fridge. Toad-in-the-hole with crisp golden risen batter on the top and a softer, juice-soaked base is one of our great dishes, made for loose change. No, VAT on food won't be a hardship.

Even a higher rate of VAT on alcohol and tobacco won't hurt me. Tax avoidance by personal shopping elsewhere in the EU, or even home brewing and fermentation are simple.

OK, let's bring it on.

8 comments:

Robert said...

While you are at it why not the full VAT on gas and electricity as well as all the eco add ons. Then the poor could freeze to death instead of starving.

Blue Eyes said...

I think there is a case for fresh food to be zero rated and anything else to be VATed. It is perverse that takeaway food from a restaurant is not taxed, but eat the same food inside and it is.

Bucko said...

There are lots of ways you can increase tax without causing unnecessary hardship.

Doesn't make it right, though.

yokel said...

@ Bucko 0938
What's right is that we clear up the mess that we let NuLabour make over the past 13 years, rather than closing our eyes to their profligacy and handing the debt/inheritance on to our kids.

The Great Simpleton said...

I thought we had an expensive library system to provide book for the poor?

Chris said...

Do the govt grow or transport the food? Do the govt write, print and distribute the books? No? Then they shouldn't have a brass razoo from it.

VAT is nothing but rent seeking at best; state-sanctioned extortion at worst.

And don't get me started on sin taxes and fuel duty...

Budgie said...

VAT is an EU specified tax. It is typically bureaucratic and wasteful (businesses have to account for it, but they just pass it on - only the final consumer pays). Best to scrap it entirely.

Bucko said...

Well said Chris.
Yokel - Surely the best way to clear up Labours mess is to get rid of the millions of council jobsworths we are subsidising. How about leaving the EU, or scrapping all fake charities.
VAT on food and books should be on the bottom of the options pile.