THERE’S no time quite like the immediate aftermath of the most dramatic finish to a season in Formula One’s history to start a debate about the value of Thatcherite economics. So thank goodness for Sir Stirling Moss.
As millions of television viewers took in the drama of the final laps of yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Sir Stirling’s mind – it seems – was already turning to the thorny issue of income tax.
Lewis Hamilton (who won, just in case you missed it) moved from the UK to Switzerland last year, and part of the reason for that was to reduce his tax bill.
Sir Stirling, who never won a world championship for all his talent as a racing driver, suggested that Hamilton might be tempted back if only he didn’t face getting clobbered by the tax man.
“I know he would love to come back here, and it is a shame the Government cannot say we will cut the tax and let him back in,” Sir Stirling said.
In fairness, though, he did follow that up with the admission that Hamilton could probably survive even with a heavy tax bill.
“With the money he is earning – even if 40 per cent goes to the Government – you could still make do, I would have thought,” he added.
I’ve no issue with Hamilton living abroad to cut his tax bill. He is perfectly entitled to live wherever he likes, providing he can afford it. (I would suggest he can.) He’s not the first racing driver to live as a tax exile either, so good luck to him.
But ask the Government to cut his tax to persuade him to live in Britain again? Good grief, Sir Stirling: Has the credit crunch by-passed you completely?
When Gordon Brown and David Cameron draw up their manifestos for the (probable) 2010 General Election, I can’t imagine either will be running on a policy ticket of: ‘Lower taxes for multi-millionaire racing drivers.’
It’s especially hard to imagine given that most people, rich, poor and somewhere in between (me included), would prefer a policy of: ‘Lower taxes for me and people like me, higher taxes for other people.’
The general British attitude to taxes is similar to the British attitude to motoring: ‘Something should be done to clamp down on everybody else.’
Come to think of it, you’re better off in Switzerland, Lewis – tax bill or no tax bill.