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December 14, 2006

Your Tax Money At Work

As we know, there is no waste in the govnermental system at all. Every single penny extorted from the populace at gunpoint is spent on vital services which can only be provided by enforced collective action. There is nothing that could be done better individually, no areas where voluntary collective action might work better and most certainly no fat at all that could be cut so that more is provided for the tax payer's money, or heavens to Betsy, the extortion lowered a little. Nope, we know this:

A report by parliament's watchdog, the National Audit Office, reveals the extraordinary prices that the country's 554,000 civil servants are paying for everything from Post-it notes to broadband access. Some departments appear willing to pay well over the odds to ensure that their supplies have their own brand name on them. As a result, the report says, Gordon Brown, the chancellor, could save £660m a year simply by getting better deals on office equipment.

Isn't localism the mantra these days?

The auditors had picked three simple items of equipment - Post it-notes, recycled paper and toner cartridges for printers - to check the price paid across the government's 200 ministries and quangos. The data showed that hugely different prices were being paid for the same items. For Post-it notes the cheapest price Whitehall could find was £4.41 for a pack of 12, while some departments paid as much as £10.55 - 139% more expensive. Yet the Guardian found that even the best price could easily be beaten: at Chartered Supplies in central London, for example, a pack of 12 unbranded notes costs £1.75 - less than half what the most price conscious bureaucrats are paying.

£660 million eh? Isn't that about 25% of the current take from inheritance tax? It's actually rather more than the rise in Air Passenger Duty just announced. It's certainly more than that raised by the Landfill Tax. Isn't it just wonderful to see where the money goes?  All because we're in the third and fourth of Milton Friedman's ways of spending money: other people's on you or other people's on other people.

Think of it this way.

Joyce Burden, 88, and her sister Sybil, 80, want cohabiting siblings to enjoy the same tax breaks as married couples or civil partners. But they were defeated by the Government yesterday at the European Court of Human Rights, ending their struggle to change the law.

Each sister has made a will out to the other, but under the Inheritance Tax Act of 1984, when one dies, her estate will be taxed at 40 per cent. They live in a £425,000 house built by their brothers near Marlborough, Wiltshire and face an inheritance tax bill of £200,000.

£50,000 of that bill will go to pay for bureaucrats Post-it Notes. Not to pay for the notes themselves you understand, but just to pay for the incompetence with which the bureaucrats purchase them.

A valid and useful application of the monopoly of legal violence enjoyed by the State, I hope you'll agree.

December 14, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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» Your Tax Money At Work from TruePress
Tim Worstall notes UK Civil Servants inability to buy post-it notes at reasonable prices.  With a government many times the size of the UKs, Im too afraid to ask what goes on here. ... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 14, 2006 12:32:13 PM



You do have a way with words. I was merely slightly depressed before; now I am thoroughly morose.

Can I emigrate now?

Tim adds: As we found out a few weeks ago, a nice little farmhouse needing some TLC (but habitable, all the same) on the fringes of nthe Algarve currently goes for about €125,000. We bought that one but I'm sure there are more.

Posted by: Eric Jacobson | Dec 14, 2006 11:20:07 AM

The sheer amount of waste in the system is utterly appalling, from post-it notes to IT projects.

Like Eric, I'm thoroughly morose now too.

Posted by: Gary | Dec 14, 2006 12:07:44 PM

"£50,000 of that bill will go to pay for bureaucrats Post-it Notes."

It won't. £50,000/£500bn of it will do that. You might as well argue that the entire cost of a BA airline flight goes to pay the BA chairman's salary.

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 14, 2006 12:28:12 PM

Inheritance tax is only liable on monies over £250,000 iirc. So the tax due on the house is ('only') £70,000. For them to be liable for another £130,000, they must have additional assets of £325,000 lying around somewhere.

That makes them astoundingly rich. Yap yap yap old women yap yap spinsters yap yap living alone with each other til the end of their days yap yap.

No sympathy.

Posted by: sanbikinoriaon | Dec 14, 2006 1:58:51 PM

Matthew doesn't do humour.

Sanbikinoriaon, meanwhile, just wants to get on with the business of removing people's money from them. He'll do it himself if need be, prying rings off fingers and yelling "Come on you old bitch, give it up".

Posted by: The Wheel | Dec 14, 2006 2:50:02 PM

"Matthew doesn't do humour."

I do! I even put a joke in my comment:

You might as well argue that the entire cost of a BA airline flight goes to pay the BA chairman's salary.

It's just not that funny.

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 14, 2006 3:06:23 PM

The Wheel: Inheritance tax is not really any worse a tax than any other kind of tax. It's fairly arbitrary and most of the money gets pissed away by the government on nothing, but that doesn't really differentiate it. It's only because it's around the sensitive subject of death that people get het up about it.

My point was that rich people being taxed is hardly a tiny violin sob story.

Posted by: sanbikinoriaon | Dec 14, 2006 4:15:30 PM


"My point was that rich people being taxed is hardly a tiny violin sob story."

You obviously live somewhere where house prices haven't shot through the roof. The entire South East of the country is not /rich/ just because their houses are worth a lot of money. It doesn't really help unless you sell and move to Newcastle...

If you think Inheritance tax only affects 'the rich' then you really are a twat and should try doing some research. (And by that I mean read something about economics not spouted by Gordon Effing Brown)

Posted by: zorro | Dec 14, 2006 5:16:16 PM


1. I didn't say that, Sanbukinoriaon, did, which makes your 'twat' comment even more silly.

2. I live in Notting Hill.

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 17, 2006 12:22:39 PM