Magazine article The Spectator

It Takes a Vindictive Mind to Tax a View

Magazine article The Spectator

It Takes a Vindictive Mind to Tax a View

Article excerpt

Bryan Forbes wants to know why he is to be penalised for living in a nice house with a tennis court and a partial view of a lake. We are mugs to have let things get this bad

Downloading the Valuation Office Agency's no-longer-secret £13 million database, I find that having lived in my house for the past 50 years and having, for those five decades, diligently paid my income and council taxes, my home is about to become my misfortune because of so-called taxable amenities. Using the Freedom of Information Act I find that another 94,373 households are listed as having a view of sorts; a further, whopping 777,189 householders have been covertly assessed as having the gall to improve their property by adding on a conservatory and will be liable for a retrospective tax.

I have discovered that unless this massively incompetent bunch of losers and dubious expense claimants on both sides of the House is exterminated at the next election, I will be penalised for possessing: (a) what is listed as a 'general scenic view' - something I have painstakingly made by my own labours; (b) partial view of a lake; (c) double glazing; (d) a garage capable of taking two cars; (e) a balcony up to five square metres; (f) a tennis court (I installed mine 39 years ago); (g) a family house in a quiet road; (h) a modest patio (from which I admire the aforesaid general scenic view of my garden; and (i) a crumbling greenhouse already here when I purchased the house. I have thus managed to tick many of the boxes that will condemn me, so thank God I never thought of building an outside lavatory or electing to live somewhere adjoining a 'positive amenity' whatever that is, otherwise I might have to resort to self-harm. I am amazed that the VOA has not included people who have a budgerigar, window boxes, garden gnomes or the nerve to walk on council pavements.

Should I confess to owning a barbeque pit, seldom used for its proper purpose but which comes in handy to supplement my old age pensioner's heating allowance?

Come to think of it, in many other respects I am somebody beyond the pale in the eyes of Commissar Brown's administration. For instance, I admit to having been 'selected' at an early age and winning a scholarship to a superior, pre-war secondary school in West Ham, an area which could not by any stretch of political imagination be described as affluent or privileged. Even so, I suppose that now I would be labelled a working-class toff, since I proudly wore a cap, tie and blazer which marked me out as one of the elite. I enjoyed a first-class education from inspired and dedicated teachers who also taught me manners and self-discipline.

After serving four years in the army during the war, I would have dearly liked to have gone to a university but was faced with the necessity of earning a living. And so, for the past 60 years I have lived by my wits and a measure of luck. Ironically, my best earning years coincided with Harold Wilson extracting eye-watering amounts of tax and super tax - I was definitely one of the pips that squeaked. It always amazed me that his government didn't take 100 per cent of everybody's wages and be done with it, merely giving us back a few quid for basic junk food.

I have not, to the best of my knowledge, ever been a burden on the state but now, in my dotage, my basic needs helped by a modest pension from the Writers Guild of America (termed 'unearned income' and taxed at 40 per cent), it appears that all I can look forward to is the erosion of my remaining pleasures. …

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