Helen Martin: Stop picking on the easy targets

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TO be fair to HM Revenue and Customs, no-one likes a tax man. Since biblical times, through to the

Sheriff of Nottingham and beyond, the mud has stuck.

Even Rabbie Burns couldn’t make the job appealing and I bet no-one has ever heard their child or grandchild announce that, when they grow up, they want to be a tax collector.

Today, paying taxes is seen as a citizen’s responsibility and duty to contribute to the cost of society and help the less well-off. But now the mood may be changing, transforming the tax collector back to the villain of the piece.

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As Scotland awaits to find out what tax-raising powers will ultimately mean north of the Border and council tax is set to be reformed and increased, every right-thinking, hard-working individual in the UK is also aware of HMRC’s abject failure at getting the rich and the big corporations to pay their dues rather than manipulate avoidance loopholes and overseas havens to their own advantage.

Some banks stand accused of being complicit in all this, as, in political opponents’ eyes, are the Tories who traditionally court big business and woo the wealthy.

With a policy of austerity, national and local budget deficits, and “hard choices to be made” to pay for the bare necessities of life, we would all expect HMRC to be closing the gaps exploited by the dodgers, sidewinders and clever accountants because even if what they are doing is

technically “legal”, it’s certainly not fair. So who is in HMRC’s sights now? Childminders. Letters have been sent demanding information on what a childminder does all day, the names and addresses of their customers and even copies of any adverts they have placed. At stake is their entitlement to almost £2000 in working tax credit, fines for submitting inaccurate information and possible criminal prosecution.

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Now I don’t know about you but I have never encountered a childminder with a Porsche in the driveway or who holidays on Mustique. They enable other people to work. They have to child-proof their homes. They don’t earn a lot and if they get working tax credit of a maximum of £1960 a year or £37 a week, I’m pretty sure that is an awful lot less than the actual cost of investigating them and paying staff in HMRC to go through local shop ads and count the cost of how many apples and digestive biscuits they buy for their charges.

By comparison, HMRC rolled over to Google, ignored obvious evidence of its sales and relevant operations in the UK, resulting in a paltry £130 million in back taxes which was a fraction of the amount for which the French are pursuing the company.

HMRC claims it is not targeting childminders and is writing to a “wide variety of people”.

I can believe that. No doubt cleaners, window cleaners, nannies and women who take in ironing are on the list, too.

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It reminds me of my tenant farmer great-grandparents who fed a goose on boiled nettles for a year so they would have something for the children’s Christmas dinner. The lady of the estate rode by one day, saw the bird in the yard . . . and ordered it to be taken to the big house for her own kitchen.

Frankly, I find HMRC’s priorities disgusting.

Tourism tax is long overdue

ONE tax that is welcome is the Edinburgh tourism tax adding £1 a night to the average hotel bill.

Hoteliers won’t like it of course. But it’s not enough to put visitors off.

Edinburgh is not Blackpool or Benidorm. As well as being a tourist destination it has to work as a residential, financial, political, legal and commercial hub. Not all citizens benefit from tourist revenue while all of us do have to pay for tourism events staged by the city and the resulting upheaval.

We deserve something back.

Why do you want your kid to grow up like Jordan?

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EVERYONE’s ideas of good parenting are different – though not quite as different as those of Katie Price.

First, she paraded eight-year-old daughter Princess in full make-up and false nails, and now she’s hit headlines again for sharing online a photo of her 17-month-old daughter, Bunny, with studs pierced through her ears.

For a start, can you imagine how the kids are going to fare in the playground, and later as teenagers, with names like these?

As for the make-up and the piercings . . . well, as the saying goes, you just can’t buy class. Every time I see a toddler with pierced ears, male or female, I cringe. The same sense of queasiness is triggered by children with dyed hair, and little boys with shaved zig-zags on their scalp, or these buzz-cut heads with pathetic little long plaits hanging down the backs of their necks.

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I know it’s a free world, but quite apart from the distastefulness of it all, little kids shouldn’t be mutilated, encouraged to mimic grown-up or teenage fashions, or even care what they look like, unless they’re going to a Hallowe’en party. . . . well, not unless you want them to grow up like Katie Price.

What Katie did next

UPCOMING rave night at La Belle Angele with club music for parents to take their babies and children? The perfect gig for Katie Price. Hope the sound system takes account of babies’ ear drums.