MARK BARNES: A successful tax system requires a balancing act
When it comes to tax, it is difficult to decide who should pay what and then to enforce collection through a set of rules that is as easy to apply as it is difficult to avoid
The fluorescent yellow vests that drivers have to keep in their vehicles became a symbol of unity and protest against the recent fuel taxes planned to be introduced in France. The protests got violent. The government backed down. It had no choice as the negative sentiment continued to grow against a president whose popularity was already at a record low of 26%. The gilets jaunes have won the day, for now, and the proposed taxes have been suspended for six months. At issue is far more than just fuel taxes. Together with other proposed benefit and tax changes, including the abolition of the wealth tax, the fuel tax has brought into question the fairness of it all, as poor households and those in rural areas are worst hit, while the rich benefit more. Inequality has entered the fray, and that’s something worth having a fight about. It’s beyond economics now, it’s political, and that’s complicated. Nobody likes paying tax. It’s common practice to criticise the government’s priorities an...