A taxing time, but worth it

PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 September 2007 | UPDATED: 23:04 28 May 2010

For self-employed people in other parts of the country, this is an important weekend. They must file their tax returns by the end of September if they want the Revenue to work out how much they owe. Otherwise they ve got until the end of January to do it,

For self-employed people in other parts of the country, this is an important weekend. They must file their tax returns by the end of September if they want the Revenue to work out how much they owe. Otherwise they've got until the end of January to do it, but can incur penalties if they get their calculation wrong.

Different rules apply in Fenland. Many local tradespeople seem to work in what is officially called the Grey Economy, where cash is king and such things as receipts and tax returns are for wimps.

I gather one variation practised by some Fen business folk is to run two sets of books. One records actual turnover for their own information and the other contains just enough transactions to encourage their accountant to say, "Well, you may as well buy yourself a new van as hand it over to the tax man."

"No-one likes paying tax," we say. True enough. It would be nice to hang on to every penny we earn but we're not actually giving it away to a stranger. Our tax doesn't make the Government or Cambridgeshire County Council or even Fenland District Council rich.

We lend it them to pay for our roads, schools, hospitals, police, army and pensions. If we don't like the way they look after it, we have the chance every few years to elect a new set of people to decide how it should be spent.

When people tell me we shouldn't pay any income tax, I try to get them to tell me how things should be organised. Suppose a bus shelter needs repairing. Should we then all go round to Fenland Hall and decide whose turn it is to pull a few fivers from under the mattress?

We first paid tax to the Romans. In later centuries, we paid tax to the Danes, to monks and to Lady Godiva's husband. She stripped off when she thought he was demanding too much. Income tax was introduced in 1799 to pay for the war against Napoleon.

The last laugh is on the French though. Our highest rate may be 40 per cent: they pay a whopping 58 per cent. If you want to pay less, move to Russia. There it's only 13 per cent.

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