A competitive tax rate for uncompetitive people

…or how to appear clever yet look incredibly stupid.

Many of us say things we later regret, and I have no doubt that but hours after having their letter appear in the hallowed pages of the Financial Times, the group of “twenty high-profile economists” who call for the scrapping of the 50p top tax rate – which, they say, does “lasting damage” to the UK economy – will be cringing with embarrassment, all the while insisting that they are right.

The 50p tax rate is a largely symbolic measure which raises relatively little revenue for the Treasury. It could quite easily be scrapped, and as a result there would be rejoicing in the watering holes of the City of London. But there’s the rub: the 50p tax affects mostly the highly paid barrow boys who toil on the trading floors of the Great Wen. Not the real entrepreneurs who hire expensive financial advisors to help them avoid paying income tax altogether by diverting personal assets into company stocks, offshore accounts and other tricks of the trade.

Taxes are for little people, and the 50p tax is that imposed on the little people who sit at the top of the pile. City traders, for example, but also economists who supplement their meagre academic salaries with earnings from speaking, writing and consultancy. And it is so dreadfully unfair for them to have to hand over half of their annual earnings over £150,000.