If you are lucky enough to live in a tax-free country, you may have been spared the recent barrage of news headlines featuring the word “” or the phrase “taxpayers’ money.”
These headlines have become commonplace for us less fortunate mortals who live in the UK.
Whether it is the £131bn taxpayer support of UK stressed banks; the estimated £7bn taxpayer support to bail out Irish banks; the expected £20m taxpayer bill for the Pope’s recent UK visit; or the potential taxpayers’ bill of £22bn if British Telecom goes bust, these headlines have very much become run-of-the-mill for us Brits.
So who does taxpayers’ money really belong to?
To answer this question, let us reflect on the contemporary phrase “taxpayers’ money.” I see this phrase as a misnomer, for the simply reason that once tax revenue is collected from citizens and residents, it belongs to the government.
Tax revenue is generally used by the government to provide public amenities for its citizens and residents, as well as, fund other projects it deems necessary. So regardless of the hackneyed misleading phrase, tax revenue really is controlled by the government.
Okay, let us assume that I owe someone £20 for goods I purchased. Once I settle my debt of £20, I cannot say that the money is still mine. Furthermore, it would be naive of me to contend that I have any realistic control over how my creditor chooses to spend this money.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to establish the timeline and circumstances of the first public use of the phrase “taxpayers’ money.” I do, however, suspect that it may have been politically motivated by opposition politicians to incite the wrath of taxpayers over a public spending exposé.
Nonetheless, it is now commonplace for we taxpayers to rant about how our political leaders spend our tax revenue contributions. Especially when our political leaders spend this money bailing out struggling banks and economies, as well as, help rebuild countries that we should not have helped destroy in the first place.
For example, the cost to UK taxpayers, for combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq (including rebuilding costs) is estimated to be in excess of £20bn. According to former Mayor of London, Kevin Livingstone, this amount will adequately fund free university tuition for 10 years in the UK.
As a UK taxpayer, I am disheartened that, in spite of my tax contributions, my welfare and that of other taxpayers no longer dominates government spending priorities. Of course it is clear as night and day that we have been short-changed. To add insult to injury, we have now been left out in the cold in our birthday suits. Only when we accept that we have no real bargaining power in this relationship would we have begun our preparation for the rough and bumpy terrain that sadly lies ahead in 2011.