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Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Okay, the title of this post is an absurd exaggeration, but I am not optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. Government spending has exploded over the last ten-plus years (the largest expansion in the burden of government spending among developed nations), and this unsurprisingly has led to punitive class-warfare policies. I saved this article from the Daily Mail from a couple of months ago because I was curious to see whether predictions about talent fleeing London would prove accurate:

London will become the most highly taxed financial centre in the world when the new 50 per cent income tax rate for those earning £150,000 or more comes into force next month. Taxes will be higher than for financial workers living in the other key centres of New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Geneva, Zurich, Dubai and Hong Kong, KPMG calculated. The findings will raise fears that Labour’s levies are driving businesses and bankers overseas and threatening Britain’s competitiveness. …Tullett announced last December that it will help employees move abroad if they want to avoid the top rate of tax, and Mr Smith said workers are already looking at relocating. Graeme Leach of the Institute of Directors said: ‘The 50 per cent rate is a policy that should never have been announced. The indirect impact on entrepreneurial aspiration, business confidence and foreign investment is likely to be significant.

As we can see from this Bloomberg article, it appears that the feckless big-government policies of all the major parties are driving productive investors and entrepreneurs to jurisdictions with better tax law. Switzerland seems to be the biggest beneficiary. As you read the details below, one thing to keep in mind is that at least Brits are free to emigrate. The U.S. government imposes repugnant Soviet-style exit taxes designed to ransack successful people who want the freedom to move someplace with more liberty:

…more than 100 bankers, hedge fund managers and wealthy retirees are gathered on a cold March night to plot their escape from Britain. Swiss government officials and Geneva-based financial advisers have come to London to lure rich residents with glowing descriptions of the country’s low taxes, safe streets, private-banking options and convenient ski weekends. …Next door, an overflow crowd of 50 more attendees enjoys wine and canapes as they watch the presentation on closed- circuit televisions in a mahogany-lined library, which includes a chart showing the prevalence of English as a language for doing business in Switzerland. A JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who declined to be identified confides he’s planning to relocate next year. His main complaint: higher U.K. taxes, a theme the Swiss delegation has pounced upon. “Some people think it’s morally wrong to be working for the government for more than half the year,” says Jonathan Ivinson, a Geneva-based tax partner at international law firm Hogan & Hartson LLP… London’s highest earners must now pay a 50 percent tax on incomes above 150,000 pounds ($227,200) that came into force on April 6, replacing a 40 percent top rate. …During the campaign, both Brown and Cameron said they backed additional curbs on the U.K. financial industry — including a bank transaction levy — and agreed that Britain’s dire financial state would lock in higher tax rates for the foreseeable future: …As the taxman’s take grows larger, Switzerland is shaping up as the most-welcoming alternative for British exiles. Light- touch regulation and the willingness of cantons, as regional governments are called, to negotiate special tax rates for both individuals and businesses have prompted at least 30 London hedge fund managers to consider moving to Geneva in the past year, says Shelby du Pasquier, a Geneva-based partner at Lenz & Staehelin, a Swiss law firm. Investment management and advisory services aren’t regulated in Switzerland, apart from anti-money laundering rules, and the federal government and several cantons last year reduced taxes on dividend payments for entrepreneurs, including owners of hedge fund firms, he says. …Geneva has already attracted some of London’s top talent. Alan Howard, co-founder of Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP, Europe’s largest hedge fund firm, has rented office space in Geneva for 60 traders relocating from London. …BlueCrest Capital Management Ltd., Europe’s third-largest hedge fund firm, has opened a Geneva office for as many as 70 traders and analysts who have worked in London on its two biggest funds. They’re being joined by BlueCrest co-founder Michael Platt and Leda Braga, manager of the $9 billion BlueTrend fund, according to people familiar with the firm’s transitional plans. …The departures of those principals prove that the threat to London’s prominence as a financial center is real, says Stuart Fraser, head of policy at the City of London Corporation, which runs the financial district. …U.K. top tax rates will exceed those in Germany and France for the first time since 1989, according to a study by accounting firm KPMG. A banker earning 1 million pounds a year in London will now take home less than his counterparts in Frankfurt, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Singapore and Zurich, KPMG says. “The U.K. has abandoned one of its key principles when it comes to tax, which is predictability,” says Bertrand des Pallieres, founder of SPQR Capital LLP, a London-based hedge fund firm with about $700 million in assets as of April. He left the U.K. last year and opened an office in Geneva after the new tax rate was announced. It’s not only funds looking at leaving. Broker Tullett Prebon said in December it would allow its 700 employees in London to move to “more certain tax regimes.” Several of Tullett Prebon’s major desks are now planning to move key personnel, the company says. …London Mayor Boris Johnson estimates that up to 9,000 bankers, hedge fund managers and private-equity executives could leave the city, according to a letter he sent to the Labour government in January. …Marcel Jouault is working to make sure that agitated Britons wind up in Pfaeffikon, a village on the shore of Lake Zurich. Pfaeffikon’s 11.8 percent corporate tax rate and 19 percent personal income levy are both Switzerland’s lowest, helping the village lure funds that handle about $100 billion in investments, according to hedge fund research firm Opalesque Ltd.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown has done a terrible job and is widely unpopular.. But even if the opposition party wins control later this year, it may not make much of a difference. The leader of the Tory party, David Cameron, is a British version of a RINO. He has not pledged to reduce the burden of government spending (which, as the chart illustrates, has skyrocketed). He has not pledged to reverse Brown’s dramatic increase in the top tax rate. And now the Conservative Party is expressing support for a huge increase in the value-added tax. The UK-based Times reports:

A rise in VAT is looming whichever party wins the general election, as Labour and the Conservatives draw up plans to balance Britain’s books. Alistair Darling and George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, are both considering raising VAT to as high as 20 per cent — the European average — from the current rate of 17.5 per cent, The Times has learnt. …One City source close to the Tory tax team said: “There is a view across the Conservative Party that VAT is going to have to go up.” The Chancellor is also keenly aware that Britain needs to retain the confidence of the credit-rating agencies. He has privately ruled out either raising income taxes or increasing the scope of VAT, but has deliberately left open the possibility of increasing the sales tax in the next Parliament.

P.S. As usual, my technical skills are grossly deficient and I can’t figure out how to get the graph to appear, but click on the box to see how the burden of government has exploded in the United Kingdom (makes George W. Bush and Barack Obama look like fiscal conservatives by comparison).

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The Guardian is a left-wing paper, so the author of this column may also be a collectivist, but he gets credit for being honest about the European Union’s shortcomings. Even more important, he has several very clever lines – such as “post-democratic statism” and “greatest boondoggle of the late 20th century.” His column is designed to promote Gordon Brown for the job of EU President, but read it for the scathing rhetoric:

He is clearly unhappy with the rough and tumble of democratic politics, with the daily grind of public appearances, glad-handing and schmoozing. But these are not required in Brussels, where nobody is elected to anything and such populism as smiling at cameras and holding referendums are anathema. Brown, dark-suited and anonymous, is a natural oligarch, his governing style attuned to the post-democratic statism of 21st-century Europe. …If a Brown presidency were a success it would be a triumph for Europe. It might help rescue the meretricious gravy train that is today’s EU hierarchy, perhaps even setting it on a path to usefulness. If Brown failed, nothing would be lost, since everyone knows it is not a proper job anyway. Since it was invented by the greatest boondoggle of the late 20th century, the Lisbon treaty, it has been a title looking for a purpose – which is why Tony Blair so wants it. …An inability to think laterally has long been the curse of the European movement. A sign of its intellectual insecurity is that it cannot handle scepticism, treating any but the most craven sycophant as an enemy. At the Nice summit that followed the corruption scandals of 1998-9, the EU’s spin doctors declared that in future “decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen”. They lied, and knew it. So did the public. Since 2005, few have dared ask Europe’s citizens if they agreed with the Lisbon constitution, and those that did received bloody noses. The reneging of Labour and the Liberal Democrats on 2005 election commitments to a referendum showed the power of Europe’s oligarchs to outflank democratic accountability. It is near impossible to ascertain what any European citizen expects or wants from what is to be an extraordinary sovereign power placed over them. Nothing in recent constitutional history has been more cynical – or more dangerous – than the fact that referendums voting yes to euro-integration are accepted and those that vote no are rejected. …The tragedy of Lisbon is that it is a rotten treaty, slithering from the disciplines needed for freer trade to the phoney utopia of a level socioeconomic playing field across the continent. This will not work. It will propel the EU into constant friction with national parliaments, and stir public anger at being denied a vote on the new constitution.

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For the first time in my life, I enjoyed reading a story about soccer. But not because of the sport, but rather because it is very amusing to read about the exodus of top-flight players from England’s Premier League as they escape Prime Minister Brown’s spiteful increase in the top tax rate. The Weekly Standard has the amusing details:

The English Premier League has dominated European soccer in recent years. Nine of the last 12 Champions League semifinalists have come from the Premier League, and an English team has been in the final for each of the last five years (two played each other for the trophy in 2008). The Premiership’s top teams–Manchester United, -Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool–are four of the sport’s ten glamour franchises, and the league is easily soccer’s richest. Yet over the last few months, star players have been rejecting offers from the Premier League hand over fist. …Why have players been rejecting hefty fees to play in the world’s most celebrated soccer league? It’s all Gordon Brown’s fault. In April, the British government passed a measure that increases Britain’s top tax rate from 40 percent to 50 percent. The enormous hike applies not just to wealthy soccer stars (the average base salary for a Premier League player is £1.1 million a year) but to anyone making over £150,000. When the tax increase first passed Arsenal striker Andrei Arshavin demanded that the team renegotiate his contract, calling the hike an “unpleasant surprise.” Ronaldo’s agent noted that it would mean an extra £670,000 a year in taxes for the star (who was then still with Manchester United). Arsène Wenger, the manager of Arsenal, matter-of-factly explained that the higher taxes would decimate British professional soccer. “[W]ith the new taxation system, with the collapse of sterling, the domination of the Premier League on that front will go,” Wenger told the Times of London. “That is for sure.” The move is part of Brown’s effort to soak the rich in order to make up for revenues lost in the recession. Three-hundred thousand Britons will be affected by the increase, which is expected to raise an extra £2.1 billion. Which hardly seems worth the bother, because Brown’s plan also involves borrowing some £600 billion over the next five years and bringing Britain’s public debt to 79 percent of GDP by 2013. The result is that Britain’s tax rate is now the highest in the professional soccer world. In Italy, players pay 43 percent on income. In Germany, 45 percent. In France, 40 percent. In Russia, only 13 percent. But the real winner is Spain. Spain’s top tax rate is 43 percent. In 2005, however, Spain amended the law to include a provision for high-earning “foreign executives,” which would require them to pay only 24 percent. …Deloitte Sports Business Group estimates that between the falling pound, the higher British tax rate, and the Spanish tax break, U.K. clubs would have to pay 70 percent more in order to match a player’s take-home pay in Spain. Predictably, no one is happy with the situation. British papers are full of stories lamenting the demise of the Premier League. Also predictably, Britons seem more outraged by Spain’s lower tax rate than by the increase in their own. …the purveyors of goo-goo pan-Europeanism have been affronted, too. Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations, claimed that there was something “abnormal” about the influx of talent to the Spanish league. “These transfers are a serious challenge to the idea of fair play and the concept of financial balance in our competitions,” Platini told reporters.

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