Good old government. We all know that anything that tastes, feels, or looks pleasurable is at best subject to a hearty amount of taxation, or at worst downright illegal. I always presumed this was the general guideline the state followed – in actual fact, it’s a lot more complicated and ridiculous than you’d imagine.
Consider these regulations on VAT. They’re quite literally the workings of a madman. I don’t want to live in a world where I can be sent to prison for tax avoidance because I decorated my gingerbread man with chocolate instead of icing. What’s the deal with chocolate here, anyway? Did the chocolate industry stab the taxman’s gran, or something? I could buy into the fact that it could be to do with luxury and necessity, but I cannot for the life of me understand how a cookie transforms into a luxury product because the chocolate chips aren’t pressed in far enough.
This is all very hilarious, but people actually use taxpayer’s money to take this kind of crap to court. Consider the infamous 1991 VAT tribunal: McVities vs the State (what do you mean you’ve never heard of it?). In order to establish Jaffa Cakes as cakes instead of biscuits, thus avoiding 20% tax, the lawyers raised the point that:
“Cake would be expected to be soft and friable; biscuit would be expected to be crisp and able to be snapped. Jaffa cakes had the texture of sponge cake.”
So there are people in this world going around snapping Jaffa Cakes in court in order to avoid tax. Using our money. It’s good to have faith in humanity. Mind you, they clearly aren’t biscuits, so at least government got something right.
As for alcohol, that’s just depressing. Much has been made of the 1p tax cut on beer, but compared to wine and spirits it’s hardly taxed at all. Anyone who’s been a non-Etonian British university student will recall the putrid taste of the rat poison that is Tesco value vodka (or gin for the more discerning and pretentious scholar), but did you know how much of it actually goes to Tesco? A 700ml bottle of the esteemed beverage will set you back £10, but a whopping £8.89 of that is taxation. Essentially, in a just world we’d all be able to buy a bottle of gin for £1.11. (For those of us who don’t relish the taste of paint thinner in the morning, you’d be able to pick up a bottle of Gordon’s for £4.11.) And if you want some fags on top of that, around £6.70 out of an £8.50 packet of cigarettes is tax. It’s amazing how students even bother to get out of bed in the morning.
I could make a serious economic point about VAT and sin taxes hitting the poorest hardest and discouraging spending. But really, I can’t be bothered with all of that anymore. For what is government really but the greatest comedy show on earth?