Friday, 5 October 2007

Inheriting Unfairness

I'm not a huge fan of Bill Hicks (there's a line where comedy becomes tragedy, and encouraging a chronic depressive in his bleak worldview doesn't sound like my idea of a good time), but I'm right with him when he complains that the main thing in life that bugs him is that you never hear his point of view expressed in the media or in public generally.

For instance, all the talk of the town right now is this infernal "will-he-won't-he" question as to whether Gordon Brown will call a general election next week. A bi-product of this has been a flood of policy ideas from the Tory Party - an almost manic, thrashing about for votes - one of which has been the abolishment of inheritance tax for estates under the value of £1,000,000.

Now, am I the only person in the world who thinks that's a terrible idea? Apparently I am, because the only view on the matter which seems to be allowed to be aired is that inheritance tax is an evil canker on hard-working people whose money - earned from years at the pit-face - is being robbed from their children by a cynical government, and the only justification is that governments need to get money from somewhere.

Call me crazy, but I think there's a perfectly good reason why abolishing inheritance tax would result in an even more unfair system than prevails today: and it's that without inheritance tax, the rich will only get richer and the poor will stay the same. It seems obvious.

The children of wealthy parents already have enough opportunities in life. They have chances in education and chances in the job market that poor kids simply don't. They have parents who, while alive, can afford to give them loans and allowances that poor kids also don't have. And yet people think it's unfair to tax their inheritance and thus prevent them having the chance (and unearned chance, I might add) to make even more money and consolidate even more? Well, I call that crazy.

If you ask me, inheritance tax should stay where it is at a £300,000 threshold. Anything else is just a license for people who already have a step up on the ladder to get even higher.

But you'll never read that view in the papers. Possibly because most journalists stand to gain a considerable amount of money if inheritance tax disappears.

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