What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax by James Hannam

The Blurb On The Back:

What the taxman hopes you won’t find out.

What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax is an entertaining and informative guide to the tax system in the United Kingdom.  This easy to understand explanation of tax and tax policy is written for the layman, with no accounting or legal background necessary.  It lifts the fog surrounding the latest political arguments and public controversies over taxation, including the effect of Brexit, whether multinational companies are unfairly avoiding their dues, the special privileges of the ultra-wealthy non-doms and more.

Tax expert and historian James Hannam gives insight on every aspect of the tax system, along with practical case studies illustrating how taxation functions in the real world.  He shows how taxes are kept as invisible as possible, why there are so many different taxes and how they almost all end up being paid by ordinary people.  Having read this book, you will:

–           Find out how much of your money goes in taxes without your noticing it

–           Understand the logic behind the wrinkles and foibles in the UK tax system

–           See through the cant of politicians and the media on the subject of tax

Above all, this book shows how, when it comes to tax, there are no easy answers.  May yourself a better-informed voter and taxpayer by reading What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax!

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

James Hannam has spent 20 years working as a tax adviser and in this fascinating and informative book that’s designed for casual readers and which explains complex financial and political issues really well, he describes how taxation works in the United Kingdom (including how and why non-doms are treated as they are and the difficulties of taxing multinationals) and why it is that ultimately, it’s ordinary people who ultimately pay.

The book is divided into easy to follow chapters and covers such subjects income tax, PAYE, VAT, fuel duty and green taxes, capital gains tax, stamp duty, council tax, taxes on pensions and savings and then taxes on businesses, including multinationals and then concludes with an examination of tax evasion and avoidance.

Hannam writes very clearly and I found all of the sections very easy to follow as he breaks down how different taxes operate and ties it all back to three Golden Rules:

– lots of small taxes together combine to make large tax bills;

– no matter what name is on the bill, all tax is ultimately suffered by human beings; and

– taxes are kept as invisible as possible.

He also makes some interesting points about how tax is ultimately political and how backlashes and campaigns can affect budget decisions.

For me the most interesting chapter in the book deals with business taxation because Hannam breaks down all of the factors at play, particularly in terms of determining where multinationals make their profits and how transfer pricing works (a hypothetical example on the price of an iPad is particularly useful as it breaks it all down really neatly).  However I also enjoyed how Hannam deals with and also on evasion, avoidance and reform – not least because Hannam sets out how the infamous film finance scheme worked but also because he puts forward some interesting suggestions for reforming taxation (some of which, he admits, would be politically unpopular).

The only real criticism I’d make of the book is that it is – of necessity – a snapshot of the taxation system as at the time of writing and as a result some of the information will inevitably become out of date.  However that alone shouldn’t stop you from checking this out because the fundamental principles will no doubt continue to hold true and because it will really open your eyes to how much tax you pay in your day-to-day life.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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