Sunday, 13 June 2010

Tax vs. health.

The Righteous insist they want us to stop smoking and drinking and driving and eating and sleeping and breathing... did I miss something?

The Taxman does not want us to stop, or even reduce, our use of petrol, baccy and booze. In fact it would do the Treasury good if we all doubled our consumption of those things. I'm going to buy some petrol this week, in fact. My lawnmower runs on it. One gallon lasts a couple of years so it'll be a lot more expensive this time than last time. Hopefully, by next time I'll have perfected my plan for a solar-powered hover-mower that follows a path around the grass whenever the sun comes out. I have a £30 Tesco mower in the garage awaiting a suitable replacement motor and enough solar cells. It's not as easy as it sounds, balancing the weight with the power requirements. But then, as every woman knows, the reason men invent things like this is that we are basically lazy and want a machine to do it instead. Preferably automatically and unattended.

I'm sure there are those out there who still believe that the government really wants us to live healthy, pollution-free lives but the truth is, if we did that, the Treasury would collapse. Witness 'Chopper' Osbourne's latest idea to increase his tax take. He plans to increase the price of booze. Again.

Some will say that this is to 'reduce consumption'. No it isn't. It's to increase the tax take. A reduction in consumption is the last thing the Treasury wants to see.

There's no mention of tobacco but that increase goes without saying. Again, it's not to 'reduce consumption', it's to increase the tax take. I now source my tobacco from friends who take *cough* frequent foreign holidays. When they tell Customs it's for their own use, they are not lying. They plan to use it to sell to me, and others. You know, many such suppliers are non-smokers. We're not as isolated as we are led to believe.

Soon they'll be bringing in whisky too. They already bring beer but I drink so little of that it's not worth the saving.

What never seems to filter into the dense heads of the Righteous is that it's only worth smuggling something when the profit is high. It's a risky business and you have to be selling below local rates or you won't sell at all. So you are dependent on a big price differential between your source and your market.

Two ounces of tobacco comes in at around a tenner in the supermarket. The 'foreign holiday' guys can sell it at six quid a pack and make a profit. If it cost seven quid in the supermarket, the difference wouldn't attract all that many people and the smugglers would give up. Then the Treasury would get more tax because fewer people will buy the imports.

Instead of seeing this, our government (of whatever colour) will continue to increase the tax and thereby drive more and more to the little guy with the van in the back-alley. His range of goods will increase too.

As for booze, well that is very easy to make and there is no way to stop it happening. I haven't built a still because it's not yet worth it. Besides, the stuff I like has to be aged for an absolute minimum of eight years in oak barrels and I've never been known for my patience. Good quality tobacco also takes years. However, the price will eventually reach a point where it's worth starting. I can sell the raw hooch to fund my booze and tobacco intake while I wait for the good stuff to be ready and by the time I retire I'll have an independent supply of both. Free, apart from a little effort.

Tobacco - you're taxing something that grows on its own.

Booze - you're taxing something that anyone can make. No training necessary. If you want to distil then you do need to know what you're doing but beer? Easy. You can make a strong beer at home for pennies per pint in a matter of weeks. Wine? Almost effortless and can be made with fruit grown in your garden or collected from the wild - and yes, if it grows on public property, it's wild. If it grows in someone's garden and overhangs the fence, you can't have it but if it's rooted beside a public path, fill your bag.

An aside - someone told me of a case of two neighbours who hated each other. One had an apple tree that overhung the neighbour's garden. The neighbour cut off the overhang and dropped it back over the fence. He had eaten all the apples but left the cores attached to the tree. Yes, he had munched around them without picking them.

The owner of the apple tree went to his lawyer but the lawyer said nothing could be done. It is legal to cut off an overhang as long as you return it, which the neighbour did. It is not legal to pick the fruit from an overhang, but he didn't, by strict interpretation of the law, pick any. He had left the apples attached to the branch, even though he had eaten them. So that's not illegal but it's pretty spiteful.

Aside over.

Basically, you can make all the booze you want at home and even if they made homebrew illegal, there's no real way to police it. So they don't sell brewer's yeast. They'll still sell baker's yeast and it's the same species. It won't make good beer straight away but if you re-use it on successive batches, it'll get better. Alternatively, buy a bottle of beer with the yeast still in it and use that. You want hops and barley? Visit a farmer. Malting isn't hard, it just takes a little effort. If you can't get hops, use nettles, but use the very young shoots that haven't developed stings yet or you'll lose all feeling in your tongue. All you need is a little practice.

I'm out of practice. I think I might go shopping for demijohns and buckets. As for yeast, well, that's not likely to be an issue.


Anonymous said...

apparently if you mix, glenfiddich and your home distillation 50/50, it tastes reasonable or should i say magnificent

Leg-iron said...

It depends on your home distillation skills.

Then again, if you can afford Glenfiddich, why mix it?

banned said...

Someone needs to get George to re-sit his Economics O-level, giving special attention to the 'elasticity of demand' bit.

From your link
"The duty paid on beer and wine has risen 26 per cent since the start of 2008, while for spirits it has risen by 22 per cent.
However, the overall tax "take" from alcohol fell £730 million, from £15.117 in 2008 to £14.386 billion, in 2009"

You can only milk us so far George, then it becomes counter-productive.

JuliaM said...

"There's no mention of tobacco but that increase goes without saying. Again, it's not to 'reduce consumption', it's to increase the tax take."

I haven't seen anywhere - and I've been looking - about any ConDem plans to abolish the Labour 'newsagants must not display tobacco' wheeeze.

Are they planning to just let it quietly die, or support it?

manwiddicombe said...

As for yeast, well, that's not likely to be an issue.

Can't shift the thrush?


Anonymous said...

Things of beauty.

Me, I'm growing hops and just planting out the barley. (don't that much to make 5 gallons or so)


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Leg-iron

Re: An aside

Your story of the apples eaten ‘on the branch’ was the subject of a Thelwell cartoon, almost certainly included in his book ‘Up the Garden Path’ (1967), which also gave guidance on snail disposal, which I still recommend to friends, vis. chuck ‘em over the fence.

Whether Thelwell’s cartoon was the source of your acquaintance’s story or whether the story was inspiration for the cartoon is moot.


Smoking Hot said...

hah ... l'm currently helping fellow citizens to import as much as they want. Could reach level where the UK could intiate tax hikes as much as they want ...and all to no avail because it'll all come from EU.

Dedicated my blog to tactics used by UK Customs and experiences of. :)

JohnRS said...

I'm sure that buried in the figures for rising alcohol tax there's an algorithm that will yield a series of concentric circles centred on Dover/Folkestone that shows at what duty level it's worth going to France to stock up. You just wait till the "tidemark" reaches your address then book your ticket for a day trip.

I see Tesco (that staunch supporter of minimum alcohol pricing) are currently offering a 4:1 conversion rate on their Clubcard vouchers. So for around £14 you can go to France with Eurotunnel....and coincidentally there's a nice big Tesco selling nothing but wine, beer and spirits really close to the tunnel exit that I guess they'll hope you use to buy your cheap booze and deprive George of his tax take.

I find a trip over there twice a year keeps me stocked up.

Have fun jacking up the prices George.

smokervoter said...

I was listening to a financial radio program yesterday and the host was discussing the PIGS deficit crisis. He singled out Angela Merkel and Ireland and praised them both for "biting the bullet" by raising taxes to balance their books. He then specified that "it goes without saying" that tobacco taxes would be raised and continued on to the spending cuts. Your words exactly.

What he should have said was that the smokers of Ireland and Germany were making the tough sacrifices and anteing up to the treasury pot to make up the shortfalls, not the overall citizenry nor the leadership (unless Merkel herself happens to smoke).

I sent the host an immediate email pointing out this slight rectification of the facts and, much to my surprise, when he came back from a commercial break, he spoke to it. He said words to the effect that regardless of what your opinion of smokers and smoking is, they deserve credit for stepping up to the plate and contributing out of pocket to the ultimate solution of revenue side shortages. He even continued on with some brief comments on the "tyranny of the majority". He definitely made a new radio program fan out of me.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Yep, but as the Curmudgeon points out, the laffer curve is exhausted in this area.

The Tories should know all about this. After all, they were the ones who trumpeted the increase in tax yield when they reduced income tax in the 90s.

It's daft policy, pure and simple.

smokervoter said...

Indeed we are reaching that Laffer apex point where the produce-it-yourself option comes into play. I don't have the foggiest idea of what I'm doing but I'm looking at a mini-forest of tobacco seedlings emerging from the soil right now. I'm no farmer by trade but I know that if you dig down a little and put some seeds in the ground and water them and give them some sunshine, a useful plant will eventually materialize.

The seeds are really teensy-weensy, by the way, almost invisible. I put them into a water container and poured the mixture into a long furrow and up popped this little canopy of plantlets.

smokervoter said...

Sorry for over commenting here but this is a dual-purpose one that covers this topic, the Just Sayings topic and my prior observations on tobacco taxes. The saying goes "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree".

Anonymous said...

I’ve never quite been able to understand how non-smokers and non-drinkers can continue to swallow – indeed support – the “discouraging” line on tobacco and alcohol taxes. Putting 20p on a packet of cigarettes which is already over £6 (most of it tax) isn’t going to stop anyone buying them. If they’re finding £6 a day, they’ll find £6.20 without any bother. Same with alcohol.

Every time non-smokers and/or non-drinkers allow these increases to go through without so much of a whimper of protest they allow themselves – like politicians – to be financially backed into a corner which it will cost them a fortune to get themselves out of, and which render them effectively dependent upon we the sinful continuing to sin!

So, bring it on Ozzy! The more you charge me, the more you need me ……..

Anonymous said...

A big increase in the price of alcohol just won't work. Wine from a kit works out at £1.20 a bottle - just from my quick retail investigation. Maybe not worth the bother to save £1.80, but certainly worth the bother to save £3.60 (£4.80 for 50p per unit). It's not going to happen.

Rob said...

From the article:

he British Medical Association has suggested a rate of 50p per unit of alcohol, which could mean a pint of medium-strength beer costing £1.14

Eh? WTF? £1.14? Maybe 15 years ago.

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