One answer to that question might be “when it’s a probate fee”. The government has announced a new regime for probate fees, linked to the value of estates, which will replace the current fixed fee from May this year. Instead of the current £215 (or £155 through a solicitor), executors will pay on a sliding … More When is a tax not a tax?
At the Autumn Statement in November, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) seemed to betray a certain frustration with the lack of information available about the government’s plans for Brexit. As I noted in my blog, flagging up a change in the OBR’s remit, the OBR confessed in its Economic and Fiscal Outlook (EFO) to … More The dog that didn’t bark in the Budget
A number of today’s papers have carried parts of, or references to, Angela Merkel’s new year message. Given the vacuum in political leadership in the UK, I decided it was worth translating in full. For any cynics who may read this: I’m not blind to Germany’s faults. Indeed, I’ve got a blog in the pipeline … More Happy New Year – from Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel warned last week against British cherry–picking on Brexit. Or rather, she warned against “Rosinenpickerei”, which literally means raisin-picking. But this is hardly news. On 28 June, 5 days after the referendum, Merkel first included such a warning in a speech to the Bundestag, immediately before the European Council meeting and the first informal … More Raisins or cherries, the message remains the same
The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) has been the subject of much comment since Wednesday’s Autumn Statement. But the fact that its remit has been changed seems to have passed largely unnoticed. Tucked away among the hundreds of pages of supporting documents is a revised draft Charter for Budget Responsibility. The charter fulfils a dual … More OBR can no longer shock us
Once upon a time, in a pre-Brexit, pre-Trump world, a conservative government unexpectedly won an election. One of their key priorities was to eliminate the deficit, and in the Budget immediately following the election they came up with a way to “raise” a few £billions by what amounted to an accounting trick. They decided to … More Smoke and mirrors don’t fill the deficit
Since New Labour’s election victory of 1997, there has been a professed commitment from the UK executive to “open government”. The most tangible evidence of this was the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which enshrined a Labour manifesto commitment, though for various reasons it did not come into force until 1 January 2005. I recall … More Farewell to Open Government
On top of the pressures of defining what “Brexit means Brexit” might mean and starting to map out the UK’s new place in the world, there are signs that engagement between the Brexit departments – Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) and Department for International Trade (DIT) – and business has not got off to … More Testing times for the civil service: some rules of engagement for the Brexit departments
Soon after he was appointed shadow Chancellor last September, John McDonnell announced a “wholescale review of the tax system” and, more specifically, of HMRC. Last Thursday, almost a year later, the first-stage report of the HMRC review was published (apparently available only on Scribd). The report describes itself as commissioned by Labour and conducted independently … More Labour’s review of HMRC: evidence-based policy or shoddy sound-bites?
My first encounter with the Polish community was around the age of 8 or 9, when I shared my primary-school desk (one of those old-fashioned affairs, big enough for two and with holes for ink-pots) with a Polish boy called Jon Mikes. Contact with people from central or eastern Europe was unusual then – the … More Solidarność! Why I went to Harlow on 3 September 2016.