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Missing the point of non-doms

As the various parties' manifestos become clear before the general election, as usual what I really want to do is mix and match from various parties - they almost all have some good stuff on offer.

Although it's not a vote-winner, there's one point on which I'm 100% with Labour, and that's over the matter of non-doms.
For those who live under a bucket, or not in the UK, this is not people who aren't called Dom (like me), but those who are judged non-domiciled.

This was apparently a tax wheeze set up alongside income tax 200 years ago and that is now hopelessly out of date. A non-dom lives in the UK but is officially not a UK resident and can opt to pay tax on their earnings from outside the UK in another country.

Clearly some people find this highly lucrative, because they opt to pay up to £90,000 a year for the privilege. What is particularly bizarre is that you can be a non-dom even if you were born and spent all your life in the UK, as you can inherit it from a parent.

Labour has announced they will scrap the concept, which has resulted in the inevitable squealing from the friends-of-the-rich. Here's a typical whine from Mark Davies in The Spectator, reported in the i newspaper:
Labour claims scrapping non-dom status will raise hundreds of millions. But these figures are uncosted and there are incalculable factors, such as how many non-doms will leave the UK as a consequence.
I could point out the magnificent logical peculiarity in this argument - Davies complains that the figures are uncosted, then tells us that they couldn't be costed - but he entirely misses the point. To be honest, Labour shouldn't have even mentioned savings. Because this is not about savings. I wouldn't care if it did lose us a bit of revenue, because it is an unfair, ridiculous and outdated concept that needs doing away with. (A bit like the Royal Family, but that's a different blog post.) Sometimes government should do things that aren't about saving money, but about doing the right thing, and this is one of them.

It's not as if our non-doms can flee to another country to regain the status, because you won't find this bizarre system elsewhere. And, frankly, even if some did leave, would it be a great loss? I suspect not. The fact is that we would be doing the right thing - and it's a shame that the Conservatives can't follow suit on this one.

Photo of Dom Joly © paul bednall photography 2011

Apologies to Marcus Chown for stealing the Dom/Non-Dom joke


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