Gordon "Smiler" Brown and his Darling Chancellor were somewhat humiliated yesterday, when it emerged that they had been planning to increase VAT to 18.5% in 2011.
This embarrassing plan was revealed when a document signed by Stephen Timms, a junior Treasury Minister, was published on a government website. The hard copy version, also signed by Timms, shows no VAT rate of 18.5%.
The web version has now been removed.
Now here is where the politicians seek to cover their shame. Treasury minister Angela Eagle said that the publication had been:
"..a pure administrative error on the part of HM Revenue and Customs.
For anyone to think it is anything else is complete scaremongering and opportunism of the worst sort."
HMRC stated (as per the Guardian) that the VAT increase had been a fully worked-up option, that had been ditched at the last moment in favour of the 45% tax rate on those earning more than £150,000.
I am of the view that the buck should stop with the people who claim to be in charge of HMRC. Given that these plans were discussed at Treasury level, and signed off by a Treasury Minister, then the responsibility for the dissemination of the "correct" plans lies with the Treasury.
This is not an HMRC cock up, but a Treasury cock up; for Eagle and her colleagues to "rat out" HMRC in this way is a pretty lousy trick. However, many politicians are pretty lousy anyway.
Doubtless some poor sap in HMRC will be ritually sacrificed to protect the "honour" of the Treasury.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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