17 October 2007

You can take it with you

The Conservative Party have fallen upon inheritance tax like a hobo would a discarded pizza. And what an amazingly sustainable meal it has proved, tapping into a previously unrecognised phenomenon of large public anger directed at a tax most do not have to pay.

As with all promises of tax cuts,the secret is to pretend it is not about anything as vulgar as money. We wouldn't wish to be thought of as greedy, so politicians flatter us with high-minded platitudes of choice and freedom - and we go along with the idea. The latest in this long line of euphemisms is "aspiration". According to George Osbourne, Shadow Chancellor, inheritance tax (or estate duty as it is more formally and dispassionately known) is "a tax upon aspiration".

I think I can comfortably speak for many when I say that death is not actually an aspiration of mine. In fact, I think there's a good chance I will achieve it without trying. To say that taxing my estate after my death will somehow inhibit my aspirations implies that the Conservative Party has discovered a way of taking wealth beyond the grave. Now that would be a policy worth voting for.


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