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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Wee Davie's Hypocrisy
Today, in case you were unaware, is Budget Day.
It is likely to be a damp squib, as most (if not all) of the headline measures/changes etc have already been leaked. This is without doubt the most leaked budget in history. When I was a lad people would have been flogged for leaking budget details, how times change!
Anyhoo, moving on, I see that Treasury minister David Gauke (who has featured on this site on more than one occasion) has caused a wee bit of a controversy over his desire to hire a young person to work for him at zero pay.
Gauke, the nearest thing we have to a minister with responsibility for HMRC, has advertised for someone to fill a six-month unpaid internship.
Duties include "administration, basic correspondence, diary management, fundraising, campaigning and related tasks", as well as "the opportunity to work one day a week in the Westminster office".
I personally have no issues with internships. However, some of Gauke's fellow ministers (eg Nick Clegg, who also has form wrt interns and hypocrisy) and HMRC do have issues with it.
In fact HMRC in November 2011 threatened the fashion industry with prosecution if it failed to pay interns the minimum wage. HMRC wrote to fashion houses involved in London fashion week, warning them they must pay the minimum wage to anyone aged aged 21 and over.
Michelle Wyer, from HMRC, said at the time those not complying could face a penalty and prosecution, adding:
"Non-payment of the national minimum wage is not an option."
As I wrote in November:
"Internal documents from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs show it believes interns across the employment spectrum to be at "high risk" of abuse under national minimum wage laws, and that HMRC has convened a 12-person taskforce to make unannounced inspections of businesses where interns are being used as workers rather than just shadowing staff.
The special "dynamic response" unit will have powers to question managers and sift through accounts until it is satisfied that no abuse is taking place.
It is the first time intern abuse has been targeted by the HMRC, which is responsible for the enforcement of the minimum wage."
Gauke is attempting to weasel his way round charges of hypocrisy by claiming that it is an advert for "volunteers".
To me it is really very simple, either the government/HMRC allow unpaid internships (in which case Gauke has no problem) or the government/HMRC don't allow unpaid internships (in which case Gauke does have a problem).
Which is it?
Tax does have to be taxing.
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