Chancellor targets the celebrity tax dodgers

You can bet your bottom dollar that George Osborne will do his utmost to paint the UK as a land of milk and honey, with sunlit uplands when he delivers his Budget this week.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 7:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 8:36 am
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

But the normally cheerful Chancellor might find it more difficult than usual to remain his ebullient self this time.

He has already warned that yet more public service cuts are inevitable, on the grounds that it is better to face these problems straight away rather than delay and face the threat of those problems becoming insurmountable in the years to come. The local authorities have already gone on bended knee to him, imploring him to leave them alone this time.

But profligate town halls are usually an obvious target for Chancellors, so they too, once more, could be facing yet further enforced economies.

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But what may well please the “average” taxpayer - if there is such an animal - is that Osborne is likely to target high-profile and high-earning television presenters, NHS bosses and railway chiefs who have been using perfectly legitimate loopholes in order to keep for themselves more of their own money.

This involves forming so-called one-man companies, which reportedly cost the Treasury huge amounts in lost tax.

There is nothing whatsoever illegal about this, but it is certainly a loophole the Chancellor will be anxious to close - an action that would gain general applause.

It is likely that pensioners will be left alone - partly because they vote more than any other section of the population. Why kill the goose?

However, Osborne, in his usual style, will try to make the Budget appear agreeable to the average punter. It is only when the number-crunchers get down to crawl over the small print that the full harshness, or otherwise, of the Budget will come to light.

The row over who leaked what of the Queen’s alleged remark that she’d prefer Britain to quit the European Union rather than stay a member after the June 23 referendum, will surely disappear as quickly as it emerged. It almost seems irrelevant.

It reminds me of the incident as few months ago when the Prime Minister said the Queen had “purred” down the telephone when he told her that Scotland had voted against independence.

It would have been astonishing if she had taken a different view.