Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What's wrong with death tax?

I caught bits and pieces of the debate between the finance spokesmen for the three main UK political parties a couple of days ago. The papers generally felt that the Conservative representative, George Osborne was the weakest of the three. But what I found fascinating was the one bit where he seemed to gain a brief momentum. This was when he (repeatedly) attacked the Labour government for proposing a 'death tax'.

The idea seems to be that we fund care for the elderly by taking a percentage (10% was bandied around) of the value of the estate of that person after they die. The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, was quick to point out that this was just one of many ideas considered, and that they had dismissed it for the moment anyway.

I've two real problems with the attack on this idea.

One is that it is pathetic that political parties should try to make political capital out of ideas simply because they have been considered. All ideas should be open for consideration. To take this sort of 'they're going to do something nasty' attitude to what was just an idea is a good way to shut down creativity. You don't get good ideas unless you allow free rein in the idea generation session. Yes, evaluate them afterwards - and this seems to be what the government was doing - but it shows a total lack of understanding of how to have ideas if you make a fuss because something was considered. Very bad management.

Secondly, why is it such a bad idea? The Tories have tried to make it sound bad by calling it a 'death tax'. Ooh, scary. But why not have a death tax? The care of the elderly is vitally important and very expensive. What's wrong with having a tax on them after they are dead (after all, it won't hurt them at all). The Conservative party seems obsessed with inheritance, but this isn't an inheritance issue. Three cheers for the death tax.

Photo from BBC News website

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