bookmark_borderSimplifying taxation through personal companies

Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting
Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting, a photo by timbu on Flickr.
Companies have lots of advantages compared to real people. Amongst other things, they generally only pay taxes on their profits, not on their income (revenue), and lots of companies are registered for VAT, which means they don’t pay any VAT on what they buy.

Companies have these advantages to encourage investment and promote growth.

However, one might argue that this should apply to individuals, too.

Imagine if every individual automatically owned a “personal” company (i.e., at birth I would have been made sole director of Thomas Widmann Ltd.), and all their work took place through their company (it would be illegal for companies to employ people rather than other companies). In this scenario, everybody would need to decide when to take profits out of their personal company instead of investing the money (which would be tax-free).

With the move away from direct employment towards self-employment, this is increasingly becoming a reality for a large number of people, so perhaps it would be worthwhile making this approach universal.

After this change, it would be possible to completely abolish income tax, because employment would then always an issue between two companies, and all that would be needed would be company taxation and taxes on withdrawing profits. I guess many people would let their personal companies own their house and their car and let their personal company provide free meals to its employee in order to minimise tax and VAT, but that would be a good thing as it would just be levelling out the playing field (which is currently distorted in favour of companies and rich people).

At the moment, most rich people have companies (or charities) to lower their tax bill, so giving everybody a VAT-registered company would basically just give normal people the benefits that the rich currently enjoy.

bookmark_borderWhy Brown sold the gold so cheaply

gold cast bar
gold cast bar, a photo by hto2008 on Flickr.
I must have overlooked this very interesting blog post by The Telegraph’s Thomas Pascoe (probably because the Scottish holidays had already started at the time).

He’s arguing that Gordon Brown wasn’t an innumerate idiot when he sold most of the UK’s gold reserves at a ridiculously low price, as most people had assumed.

What he really did was trying to salvage the banking system:

It seemed almost as if the Treasury was trying to achieve the lowest price possible for the public’s gold. It was.

[…]

Faced with the prospect of a global collapse in the banking system, the Chancellor took the decision to bail out the banks by dumping Britain’s gold, forcing the price down and allowing the banks to buy back gold at a profit, thus meeting their borrowing obligations.

If true, this puts the gold sale in a completely different light. It was perhaps after all the right thing to do at the time (although I wonder whether bailing out a few banks would actually have cost more than the value of all that gold today), but why didn’t Gordon Brown afterwards try to strengthen the banking system instead of letting them continue their merry games until the system finally crashed in 2007?

bookmark_borderJust say No to renegotiation

PM meets with Angela Merkel
PM meets with Angela Merkel, a photo by The Prime Minister’s Office on Flickr.
It’s completely clear that David Cameron’s plans to renegotiate the EU membership terms is just a plot to halt the progress of UKIP. He thought that promising a referendum in five years’ time would make UKIP’s voters come back to the Conservatives in time for the next general election.

However, it’s now increasingly clear that voters are drifting towards UKIP for many different reasons (immigration being one of the major ones), which means that the referendum promise now looks utterly futile.

However, many Tories (such as Lawson) are already stating clearly that they’ll vote No, no matter what, just as others (such as Heseltine) are planning to vote Yes even if Cameron doesn’t get a good deal.

UKIP will of course recommend a No in all circumstances:

What we will see is nothing more than the Wilson renegotiations in the Seventies that will be trumpeted and applauded by the establishment as a great victory for the Prime Minister and Britain, as these things always are. Nothing of any substance was achieved in the Seventies, nor will it be today.

In these circumstances, I really can’t see why the other EU countries should enter in serious negotiations with David Cameron’s government. There might be a few voters who will actually look at the deal before deciding on Yes or No, but my gut feeling is that it really won’t make much of a difference during the referendum campaign.

My advice would be to refuse to change one iota in the UK’s membership terms, or perhaps even ask the UK to join Schengen and some of the other EU policies that the UK has opted out of over the years. In other words, make this a fully in or fully out referendum, not a fifty or ninety percent out one.

I sincerely hope the upcoming EU referendum won’t affect Scotland in the slightest because we’ll already be an independent country and a full EU member by 2017.

bookmark_borderIntroducing Rosie

Rosie
Rosie, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
I’m pleased to be able to introduce the newest member of our family: Rosie Hamster.

We bought her on a farm in the Coatbridge area today. She was born on 12th April 2013 (so she’ll be one month old on Sunday), and she seems to be really lively and not shy at all.

So far she’s just exploring her cage, but we’ll start handling her soon.

If you’re interested, there are some photos of Rosie and her siblings on Facebook, and Phyllis has also created a whole photo album there.

Rosie will hopefully be with us for the next two years or so, so with a bit of luck she’ll live to see an independent Scotland!

bookmark_borderWill Google Glass lead to Google Glove?

Google Glass Prototype
Google Glass Prototype, a photo by Ars Electronica on Flickr.
I’m really excited by the upcoming release of Google Glass. Until now, there’s been an inherent conflict in smartphone design between creating a huge screen and making the device small enough that you can be bothered carrying it around at all times. (It’s interesting how mobile phones were getting smaller and smaller until the advent of smartphones meant a larger screen was required, at which point they started growing again.)

Although Google Glass is looking great, I’m sure it’ll evolve rapidly over the next few years. Apart from increasing the resolution, I expect it to expand from one eye to two, to allow for three-dimensional display. I also wonder whether it’s really the best idea to put the display above the line of vision rather than below it — if you’re using it for reading a book, surely it must feel like holding the book above your head.

However, the main area for improvement is how you interact with it. Google Glass apparently requires you to touch the frame to control it, which is essential one-dimensional and tiring. However, traditional devices such as keyboards, mice and touch-screens are not going to be very effective, either. I’m not sure what they’ll come up with, but I won’t be surprised if Google Glass 3D in 2016 will be accompanied by a Google Glove (or perhaps just by small sensors on your finger nails).