On the ninth day of Christmas...


ladiesMy true love sent to me: nine ladies dancing, which probably refers in the song to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, which include Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness and so on.

Well, it's a bit early for dancing, or even joy. Believe it or not, but if you live in the United Kingdom you are going to be working for the government every single day between now and 30 May, which is when Tax Freedom Day falls. Roughly 40% of what we make and earn is snatched from us by the tax authorities to be spent on things that our governments in London, Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast think that we should be given. Tax Freedom Day this year is three days later than it was in 2010 – due almost entirely to the increase in VAT that came in on 1 January, and which, according to Chancellor George Osborne, is 'not likely to be temporary'. Well, it should be. When VAT is as high as it is, the temptation to evade it – and just pay cash – becomes much greater.

And what do we get for all this tax money? Surveys reveal that the average Christmas present costs 14% more than the recipient thinks it is worth. If you just gave cash instead, then the recipient could buy something they think is worth the money.. It is the same with government. They buy services for us which we don't want - usually because they are very ineffectively delivered. If they gave us the cash - or even vouchers - instead, at least we could get value for our money.

(Actually, it's even worse than this. The government isn't giving us all these useless present with their money. It's paying for them with our money!)