Times is hard enough without being whacked on tax – again

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Yes, please do smirk. Because nothing could be further from the truth. Last week, for instance, a little story caught my eye about a change of heart by our Treasury Minister. Senator Philip Ozouf had apparently been minded to put back the ’20 means 20′ tax measures in order to try to get people to spend a bit more.

But this was before the November States elections and reshuffle. And now that all the politicians have their seats and pay packets assured, all kinds of things are coming out into the open, are they not?

On the tax front, though, two things are becoming clearer by the day. The first is that not only is Jersey not immune from the global economic crisis, but it is also in danger from decisions taken two or three years ago which are now past their sell-by date.

The revamp of our tax system started last May with the goods and services tax. Most of us have got used to paying the extra three per cent, but by gum it certainly hasn’t got me spending more on our high street. If anything, online shopping is better value because VAT is knocked off and you don’t pay GST on goods under £400.

Secondly, from this year we’ve got the 20 means 20 stuff to contend with. As was explained to me some time ago by a very patient tax officer, these measures don’t only affect the super-rich; they affect everyone with a mortgage, because within the next four years mortgage interest tax relief is being phased out, little by little.

I find it quite remarkable, really, that this decision got through the States at all, but softly softly has caught us all napping. And later this year the housing market will get yet another turn of the screw: stamp duty is coming in on share transfer properties. Great timing, chaps. So first-time buyers will not only have to find a ten per cent deposit – or more – but they will also find that their legal fees are considerably higher than in the past.

The point is that these little extras, which are designed to get us paying more personal tax relative to companies, made a little sense during the boom years of 2006 and 2007 because we were all fully employed, the finance industry was doing great and banks and building societies were practically begging us to borrow. Now that this has changed, in the course of just a few months, perhaps the politicians might need to have a rethink. Even if they have nearly three years to go until the next elections.

CAN we have confidence in the medical services provided by the General Hospital? In the past couple of weeks we have been told about two cases in which people died, apparently needlessly, after going into hospital for minor operations.

No doubt the authorities would be right to say that many hundreds, if not thousands, of people have had these same procedures administered by the same team of consultants and surgeons over many years and that they have survived and thrived since. But undoubtedly people will wonder – as do I – whether our lives are safe in their hands.

One of the most insidious causes of death has in recent years been found to be the virus MRSA, which spreads from hand to hand and can, we are told, be prevented. The idea that you can be admitted for medical treatment and never recover because of a lack of basic hygiene is hard to come to terms with.

In Jersey we are also highly dependent on services which link in with the UK’s National Health Service. This can be an expensive and worrying process for relatives who have to travel to an unfamiliar place where the standard of accommodation for visitors, I am told, is questionable.

And this week, in an unexpected twist to the tale, the UK government has announced that it is severing a long-standing link between the Island and the UK so that from now on we will all be regarded as ‘foreign’, for health care purposes.

The person making this declaration is an old enemy of our government. For those with acute memories, Dawn Primarolo, erstwhile UK Paymaster General, was the woman who telephoned a senior States politician back in 2002 and announced that unless Jersey agreed to comply with the tax requirements of the OECD, dire consequences would follow. That is the reason we are now struggling with the £100 million black hole and a zero corporate tax rate, which basically means that any UK-based retailer is now paying all the tax they used to pay in Jersey to the UK Treasury. Nice move, Dawn.

If the current Health Minister is hoping for late concessions, I’ve a feeling he will be waiting a long time. This is another lady that’s not for turning. Meanwhile, I’m checking my travel insurance and am wondering whether being a ‘dependency’ of the English Crown isn’t a bit of a disadvantage, in the current climate.

THE recent spate of cold weather is hard going for those of us who favour longer hours of daylight. But I had to chuckle about the antics of Connex and the Education Department during our 24 hours of snow and ice.

No one seemed to be quite sure whether or not the schools would be open, but once the decision had been made that it was business as usual there was no going back. The school bus service, however, seemed much more of a hit and miss affair, leaving parents running around in a panic trying to make alternative arrangements for their stranded offspring to compensate for the buses that weren’t running.

As I recall, life for working parents can be hard enough as it is, without the weather putting its spanner in the works, and where the slightest blip in circumstances can throw well-planned child care arrangements into disarray.

No doubt the bus services marketers will be racking their brains to come up with some damage limitation messages. Mybus rules, OK?

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