I’ve just come across an utterly brilliant idea for tax reform, one that would elevate and improve our public discourse. It comes from my friend James Hannam, who is standing for election as a councillor in Kent, and for whom I went canvassing over the weekend in the gorgeous village of Sissinghurst.
James is an accountant by profession, and recognises that it’s not the most exciting of jobs. Like many accountants before him, he is expected to serve as treasurer for almost every charity and voluntary body in the village, and he takes visible pleasure in helping. He has even managed, in his spare time, to write the definitive history of science in the Middle Ages. Still, as he observes, his day job isn’t exactly as fun as if he were an actor or a sports star.
James’s suggestion is as follows. The sorts of people who get recruited by political causes as celebrity supporters – television personalities, comedians and the like – should have to pay a special “fame levy” of around 20 per cent of their income. This tax would reflect the fact that they get paid to do really cool things, and are at the same time asked to opine about politics without the bother of getting themselves elected to anything.
It would, however, be voluntary. All the celebrities would need to do, to avoid the toll, is sign a public declaration to the effect that they wanted to opt out.
They’d be free to sign or not to sign. Either way, the rest of us would know whether or not to take them seriously when they assured us that they “wouldn’t mind paying a bit more tax” in order to “make society fairer”.
I offer this idea to all the parties. Perhaps we might even find a suitable celebrity – Bill Nighy, say, or Russell Brand, or Martin Freeman – to record a broadcast in support.