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Monday 23rd July 2012 | 10:28
The Treasury is today setting out its plans to get the rich to cough up their fair share of taxes.
While the ordinary taxpayer normally does his or her duty (and in the process foots the bill for things like public services), the wealthy seem to have a myriad of ways of avoiding tax.
Of course, few people actually like paying tax. Well, now it looks like some in Number 10 have a different take on the whole issue.
David Halpern, head of the Government's Behavioural Insights Team (aka 'The Nudge Unit'), has suggested the HMRC should deliberately overclaim taxes so it has to pay taxpayer a rebate at the end of the year.
At the Civil Service Live event hosted by our sister Dods publication Civil Service World, Halpern said "it would be better for us to modestly overclaim tax" because when HMRC underclaims people become irritated and tempted to cheat.
But there was another reason: the psychological boost of getting a rebate - and the possibility that people spend rebates.
"When people get tax back from HMRC, they feel great," Halpern said. "In the US, people love it, and they spend the money differently too. So we're trying to persuade you guys [HMRC] that's what you should do. Make sure you have a certain amount of outcome which means you have to give people their money back."
But Halpern confessed that he had yet to persuade the taxman of the merits of his idea. In fact, a spokesman said: "HMRC's role is to collect the tax due under the law, adn we do not seek to collect more tax than is due from our customers in any way. The vast majority of people pay the correct tax and where they do overpay, we seek to refund this to our customers as soon as possible after the tax year ends."
Perhaps HMRC is still burned by the stories last year about getting its tax codes wrong.
1.2million people faced a £600 bill because the taxman needed to claw back cash it had undercharged. A much bigger number, six million people, got a £400 refund because they had been overcharged over the years.
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