The commentator Owen Jones likes to project a view of a world that should be ordered by socialism, with regulated inputs and outputs moderated by a benevolent state that commands all economic activity. He also believes that people have economic obligations to the state governed by a collectivist morality, making no allowances for individual preferences or permitting choice.
Thus the leaked ‘Paradise Papers’ are a godsend to the socialist scribbler. In the pages of The Guardian, Jones is able to denounce his class enemies as economic traitors. His latest target is Lewis Hamilton. Recently Hamilton became the Formula 1 world champion racing driver for the fourth time. But Jones, good socialist that he is, has no interest in individual achievement. Quelle surprise!
Hamilton eschews airliners for international travel, preferring to use private jets. To this end he has bought one of his own. He has used the benevolent tax regime of the Isle of Man to make his purchase. The Isle of Man is not actually in the EU, and never has been. As such it does not have to hand over any money to Brussels to finance Jean-Claude Juncker’s drinking habits. This is all perfectly legal and above board. But it is not good enough for Jones, who rails:
‘Lewis Hamilton was born safely in Lister Hospital in Stevenage, courtesy of the state-funded NHS. He was then educated by the state at great expense. Throughout his life, he has used state-funded roads and rail tracks, has been protected by the state’s police forces and fire brigades, and no doubt employed the services of accountants who used their state-funded university degrees to locate loopholes in the tax system for him. He has repaid his gratitude to his country by choosing to avoid paying European taxes on his £16.5m jet.’
There are two things wrong here. First, no one, not even Hamilton, pays taxes out of ‘gratitude’. The government provides the roads, schools, hospitals and the rest because it wants to be elected, not as some kind of covenant with the taxpayer. The implication is that Hamilton should be paying UK taxes in return for growing up here. Children are not born into this country with a moral obligation to pay taxes here after they turn 18 out of ‘gratitude’. They do so because it is the law. So long as Hamilton is not ‘gaming the system’ or evading taxes, he is legally entitled to minimise his tax liability. Taking Jones’s ridiculous logic further, adult immigrants to these shores could be exempt from some taxation since they did not use any UK services growing up so there is no ‘gratitude’ required. Sorry, Owen, it does not work that way.
The second fallacy is that Jones writes about Hamilton’s ‘gratitude’ being ‘to this country’, but then complains that Hamilton did not pay EU taxes. So the country to which Hamilton owes his ‘gratitude’ would not see a penny going to any item on Jones’s shopping list. Some might argue that the EU will fund some of the good socialist causes Jones likes so much. However the UK is leaving the EU, so if Hamilton paid EU taxes, that money would never come here. In fact the UK is being pressured to send more money to the EU while getting nothing back.
There are another two things wrong with Jones’s article in The Guardian. The first is that he wrote it. The second is that it got past the editor of the comment pages with these two howlers intact. But this just demonstrates the poor quality of writing and editorship in Left-wing publications, and explains why The Guardian is haemorrhaging its windfall from the sale of Auto Trader. Instead of a paywall, it begs readers to make a contribution. Few think The Guardian is worth it.
Jones, while writing about Hamilton’s tax-minimising affairs, for some reason makes no mention of the fact that The Guardian paid no tax whatsoever on the profits from the sale of Auto Trader by using a tax-minimising scheme of its own. Perhaps he could squeeze out another article on this, if his editors let him. Given their laxity, they probably would.