Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Brown’s retrospective taxes are affront to the rule of law

I’ve been stung!

I’d better declare my interest now, as I believe one should be open about one’s interests. A few weeks ago my wife and I bought two airline tickets to Cape Town. Gordon Brown has since announced that people like me – airline passengers who bought their tickets before this month’s pre-budget report – will be taxed. This gives us no option to change our behaviour to avoid the tax – unless we sacrifice the £450 ticket to avoid the £20 fee – so not only is it unfair and arbitrary, it will not in any way reduce carbon emissions.

The Times reports that “Airline passengers face long delays at airports from February because check-in staff will be required to collect the increase in departure tax announced last week. More than seven million people had already booked flights before the announcement in the Pre-Budget Report that Air Passenger Duty will double from February 1. Those passengers will have to pay the extra tax when they check in for their flights.”

This is a blatant violation of the legal principle that laws must be prospective. By applying this new tax ex post facto to airline tickets bought before the pre-budget report, it has denied purchasers to ability to make informed decisions knowing in advance how the Government would tax their activity. Those who have bought airline tickets in all innocence prior to the pre-budget report are now landed with extra fees that they could not predict – indeed, that they had every reason to assume would not apply, as ex post facto taxation violates the principle of the rule of law.

It is an excellent example both of the Chancellor’s lack of principle and of his mendaciousness. The alleged justification for this tax hike is to reduce pollution caused by rising air travel. But those who bought their ticket prior to the pre-budget report could not predict the new tax and so it can have had no impact upon their decision. Thus, in its retrospective application, it is merely another arbitrary expropriation of private wealth without justification on either environmental grounds or on the principle that taxes are applied generally.

Applying this new tax retrospectively is another example of the Chancellor’s arbitrary seizure of private wealth.It is an entirely unprincipled effort to make a seemingly randomly selected group of citizens help finance his public spending profligacy. That I am one of those caught in his web is my bad luck. I hope those more fortunate than I will nonetheless share my disgust.


Tristan said...

Has he done this elsewhere? I seem to recall hearing something about it, but can't remember what.

This sort of thing will do more to drive business away than anything else. If your actions are to be made illegal or you're to be taxed after the fact then the rule of law cannot be true, you cannot plan for your future, a company cannot make any sort of prediction of their future earnings and resources for investment.

All this does acheive is to drive away those who can leave and make the rest of us even more subject to the whims of those who seek to rule us.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I agree that he is out of order here. A well written articulation of the point.