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Press watch: Taxing the rich

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‘In a newspaper interview, [Nick Clegg] called for an emergency, “time-limited” tax on those with “very high asset wealth”. The idea was swiftly rejected by the Chancellor, George Osborne, as Mr Clegg knew it would be. Mr Clegg, of course, has a party conference coming up. This off-the-cuff populism is aimed at a party faithful whose well-guarded purity has been sullied by the compromises required of coalition.

‘Mr Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister. His words are not heard only by Lib Dem activists, but by individuals and institutions charged with making decisions about investment in the UK. A senior member of the Government airily contemplating an ill-defined out-of-the-blue raid on personal wealth does not provide a helpful context for those decisions. The effect of Mr Clegg’s posturing may well be to reduce the tax take, rather than to increase it …

‘There is no doubt that some very wealthy people do not pay enough tax. That does not mean that it follows that new taxes should be levied. The provision for the rich amply to contribute to the Exchequer already exists; unfortunately so do the loopholes some exploit to avoid paying their share. These loopholes, as this newspaper has vigorously argued, must – patiently and painstakingly – be closed.’

Editorial, The Times, 30 August 2012

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